Mayor Don Kyle has proposed moving Decatur Animal Services under the Police Department in a continued reorganization of city operations, an idea that has members of the Animal Shelter Board concerned.
Kyle and Human Resources Director Richelle Sandlin last week presented the plan to the Personnel Board. The plan calls for hiring an Animal Services manager who would answer to the Police Department.
That “would be like placing me as a vet over a golf course,” veterinarian and Animal Shelter Board Chairman Steve Osborne said Monday.
Kyle said Monday he plans to make the proposal at a City Council meeting later this month.
The mayor wants Animal Services, which runs the animal shelter on Beltline Road Southwest, to become a “quasi-division” of the Police Department in the same way Public Works recently was placed under Rickey Terry in the newly named Street and Environment Services Department, which also includes the landfill.
“Animal Services would be run by a manager instead of a director, and placing it under the Police Department would enhance coordination between the two (police and Animal Services),” Kyle said.
The Police Department already has begun changing its structure in response to the proposal. On Monday, Lt. John Crouch became liaison to Animal Services, and Lt. Proncey Robertson took over Crouch’s duties as public information officer.
The city has been seeking a replacement for interim Director Danny Melson, who announced he will retire in August. The city’s advertisement for a full-time director said the annual salary would be between $52,962 and $81,068, plus benefits.
Kyle said an Animal Services manager would have the same duties as a director, and the pay likely would be close to the same, depending on experience. The main change would be the manager would answer to the police chief through the Police Department’s command structure.
Kyle said the change meets his long-range goal of reducing the number of directors and creating a “more vertical” city employee structure. Any savings in the change would be minimal, the mayor said.
“The military recommends that only four to six people report to any one person, and, currently, there are 14 or 15 directors,” Kyle said. “That’s way too many people.”
Osborne said he learned about the proposal Monday afternoon from a third party. He said he has a lot of questions, including how his board would function in the future.
“I don’t know why they haven’t presented it to our board,” Osborne said.
Members of the city’s Animal Shelter Board raised concerns about Kyle’s proposal at a meeting Monday night. They requested Osborne schedule a called meeting with Councilman Charles Kirby, the liaison to the board, to obtain more details about whether the organizational change would affect shelter operations.
Osborne said his initial reaction to the proposal is unfavorable. He said his concern is the change would de-emphasize the services provided by the shelter after they’ve worked so hard to make it a successful standalone department. Animal Services originally was under Public Works.
“I’m sure Lt. Crouch didn’t set out to be in animal services,” Osborne said.
Kirby said this is a change he wanted in 2014 when then-Director Carol Wicks was terminated.
“We had some incidents in which the Police Department needed an animal control officer and didn’t get a response,” Kirby said. “This led to some animals being shot by officers.”
Kirby said animal services is under the Police Department in Florence and in Knoxville.
Personnel Board Chairman Harold Gilmore said his board supports the proposal.
“Animal services is under the Police Department in many of the cities I’ve been to,” Gilmore said.
Crouch said Monday he hasn’t been told what his duties will be or what the position will entail.
“All I know is I was told I’ll be taking over the animal shelter, and I won’t be PIO anymore,” Crouch said.
Crouch, also the PD’s fleet manager, said he’s also not sure whether any of his other responsibilities will change.
Robertson was named interim PIO effective Monday.
“Because of some shifts in responsibility that the Police Department is taking on, Lt. Crouch and myself have been temporarily reassigned until the new chief gets here and makes the final decision,” Robertson said. “I have done this job before, filling in and helping over the years.”
Robertson said because he leads the department’s school resource officers and community resources unit, he likely will be a good fit for the position. Also the PD’s Homeland Security coordinator, Robertson is liaison to the Morgan County Emergency Management Agency and federal agencies in the case of natural disasters or emergencies.
Incoming police Chief Nate Allen said the policies and procedures for the change, including reorganization of any Police Department positions, haven’t been finalized.
“All I can say for sure is the animal control officers will be under the Police Department,” he said. “We haven’t decided who will be assigned to that yet.”