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February 02. 2013 10:55PM

Danville: Voters debate animal control contract

DANVILLE - Selectmen at Saturday's deliberative session defended a proposed warrant article aimed at keeping its regional contract for animal control services with the town of Plaistow.

The article came under fire from resident Sheila Johannesen, the town's former animal control officer who held the position until 2011 when selectmen didn't reappoint her and chose to sign a contract with the Plaistow Police Department to have its animal control officer handle Danville's calls at an hourly rate.

Voters last March OK'd a warrant article pitched by Johannesen to make the position elected beginning this March, but selectmen have proposed an article to rescind last year's vote. Voters in March will elect an animal control officer to serve in the position until next year, but if the selectmen's proposal is approved at the polls March 12, the position will be eliminated next year and the contract with Plaistow will resume.

Selectman Shawn O'Neil, board chairman, said the budget for animal control services has dropped from nearly $12,000 when Johannesen held the position to about $4,500 proposed in this year's budget.

"Our budget has gone down considerably," he told the 50 voters at Saturday's deliberative session, adding that under the Plaistow contract the town pays $21 an hour when the animal control officer is called but doesn't have to maintain vehicles, insurance, and other overhead associated with the job. He said the Plaistow animals control officer is also a certified police officer, which means he has more authority when it comes to handling calls.

But Johannesen claims some calls aren't being answered under the regional contract. She said she has received calls and visits from people who found lost dogs and were looking for her help because they couldn't reach the Plaistow animal control officer.

"You're not getting calls answered by the regional ACO," she said.

While he praised Johannesen for knowing the dogs in town "like many of the people who live here know neighbors," Police Chief Wade Parsons said he's been happy with the regional control.

"It's a cost effective program and it seems to be working every good," he said. "It's definitely costing us a lot less than what we had before."

Meanwhile, the town's proposed $2.8 million budget and other warrant articles were moved to the town warrant with no significant changes.

jschreiber@newstote.com

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