Tazewell and Woodford counties could combine Animal Control operations by later this year.
“In the end, both Woodford and Tazewell will save money and we will have a much more efficient operation,” said Tazewell County Board Chairman David Zimmerman.
He said after Woodford had some issues with its Animal Control Department, he reached out to Woodford County Board Chairman Chuck Nagel to broach the subject.
“He said he had been thinking the same thing,” Zimmerman said. “He, too, thought it was an opportune time to consider it.”
Lawyers from both government entities are working to see if an agreement can be worked out to have both counties share animal control services.
Woodford’s former animal control director was terminated in April after a cat brought to the county’s Animal Control facility was wrongfully euthanized, according to the animal’s owners.
Under the joining of Animal Control efforts, Woodford would continue to have a facility and no layoffs would occur, according to Zimmerman. He said on-call evening staff would have a bigger area to cover should the two counties decide to combine Animal Control efforts.
Zimmerman said this may not be the last sharing of services Tazewell does with another county.
“I am always open to suggestions,” Zimmerman said. “We have a good relationship with the other counties around us.”
He said adding other counties to share Animal Control services may not be happening anytime soon, however.
“It could be a possibility at some point,” Zimmerman said. “However, at some point you may lose some efficiencies by having multiple people on call, but I am not dismissing anything.”
Libby Aeschleman, Tazewell’s Animal Control director, said she sees benefits to her department also serving Woodford County.
“We are always looking for ways to responsibly provide more services to residents,” Aeschleman said.
She said the Woodford facility could be a location Tazewell uses for spading and neutering of dogs and cats.
“We are always trying to find funding and clinic space for spade and neutering,” Aeschleman said. “We barely have room to keep up with the spade and neutering we have to do.”
Zimmerman said it is his intention to raise Aeschleman’s salary and to have an assistant for her at the Woodford facility.
“The savings will be greater than the increase in pay,” the Tazewell board chairman said.
Aeschleman said she expects the two counties to both have functioning Animal Control operations, with Tazewell being more of the overseer of the Woodford facility.
“Ideally, we would keep the facilities separate,” Aeschleman said. “You don’t want staff and animals crossing county lines. It would be best if the facilities remained separate.”
Aeschleman said there are still a lot of discussions required to see if the merger makes sense for both government entities.
“We are still talking through it,” she said. “We are all trying to figure out if it is the best option.”
Zimmerman said with both counties starting their new fiscal years Dec. 1, the hope is that any potential merger is worked out by then.
He thinks Aeschleman’s department would do a great job running the Woodford facility.
“I am confident Libby and her staff will make this happen,” the board chairman said
Zimmerman said one potential benefit of the merger would be for potential pet owners.
“People looking to adopt an animal would have more choices to pick from on our website,” he said.