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Councilmen sanction waiver for volunteer workers

Friday, July 8, 2011

Lewisburg councilmen on Thursday indicated that animal shelter advocates ought to be able to build an addition to the animal shelter without threatening the city's financial stability if they signed waivers against any liability claims while hammering nails and performing other construction tasks.

Lewisburg Animal Shelter Adoptions members have plans for the shelter, as LASA spokeswoman Tisha Poling has explained in recent months: "We want to proceed with an outdoor pad and roofing that's not attached to the building." LASA has purchased wire kennels to be placed on new concrete and under a shed-like roof.

In May, then-Councilman Quinn Brandon Stewart moved to grant LASA's request and councilmen unanimously agreed that the volunteers could build the addition to the shelter. Subsequently, insurance issues were raised with concern for the city budget. The city's new manager, David Orr, indicated during the one-hour meeting that he wasn't about to permit the city to be exposed to liability lawsuits arising from volunteer workers' accidents. The city's liability insurance company prohibits such risk without some form of control.

LASA President Kendall Sanders understood the city's concern perfectly. She's an associate agent with the James Adcock Agency representing the Nationwide Insurance Co.

As it became clear that a path had been cleared toward LASA volunteers providing construction work and materials to improve the animal shelter, Mayor Barbara Woods indicated that the purpose of the special non-voting session had been accomplished. Orr recognized the opinions of the councilmen and gave the council sufficient reason to believe that the manager would deal with the details administratively, so there was no discussion about whether a motion would be needed at Tuesday night's meeting of the council.

However, Woods asked if there were any other issues to be discussed and Jason Williams, the county-paid animal control officer working at the shelter raised a point about how kennels are cleaned. LASA volunteers favor scooping waste while it seemed clear the officers prefer to wash it away with hosed water. The subject was debated with points about hygiene.

The discussion included city officials' support for a point made by one of the officers -- and gently emphasized by Police Chief Chuck Forbis -- that the city owned facility is jointly operated by city and county employees and that's where the authority rests.

Prior to Thursday's workshop, two councilmen expressed support for volunteers' care for the dogs captured as strays in town.

"A society is often judged as it treats the least of its society and we are mindful of our pets," Councilman Steve Thomas said. "This is a rural community and whether it's cows, horses or dogs, people are more comfortable with them. They want to see them treated correctly."

Councilman Odie Whitehead Jr. had already agreed with LASA's requests: "In other communities, animal shelters are taken care of by volunteers. That would save a lot of money... I'm all for the animals, the dogs and the kitty cats. The Lord created them for our enjoyment and theirs, too."

In other city developments Whitehead has been elected chairman of the Cemetery Board. Betty Bigger continues as secretary. The organizational session included discussion on flower placement and better signage to display rules.

The Council meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

City Manager David Orr said he anticipates an uneventful session. Rezoning is planned for two properties, including the funeral home on Yell Road where a crematorium is to be installed. Changes are proposed for the stormwater ordinance.