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County Council approves second reading of ordinance making changes in hold times for strays

September 19, 2018

Aiken County Council unanimously approved the second reading of an ordinance Tuesday night that would change the minimum hold times for strays at the Aiken County Animal Shelter.

All of the panel’s members, except for Vice Chairman Andrew Siders, were present at the meeting, which was held in Council Chambers at the Aiken County Government Center.

Chairman Gary Bunker announced that illness was the reason for Siders’ absence.

Under state law, the minimum hold time at a shelter for an animal whose owner can’t be identified is five days. But the law doesn’t specify whether the period should be defined as business days or calendar days.

Currently, the county shelter’s policy is to hold such strays for five business days before they become eligible to be prepared for adoption or transferred to another facility or a rescue group.

The ordinance would make the period five calendar days.

For animals whose owners can be determined through forms of identification including tags and tattoos, the hold time would change from 10 business days to 14 calendar days.

In all cases, the hold period would not include the day that a stray arrives at the shelter.

During a public hearing before council voted on the ordinance, Friends of the Animal Shelter President Jennifer Miller and Aiken Realtor Randy Wolcott spoke in favor of the ordinance.

Wolcott said the ordinance would save the county money and result in unwanted animals finding “forever homes” more quickly.

Miller provided statistics from 2015 and 2016 showing that only 8 percent of stray dogs and 1 percent of stray cats at the county shelter ended up being claimed by their owners. The average time it took for animals to be claimed by their owners was 3.4 days, and many of those owners showed up after a day or two, Miller said.

Those trends, she added, have continued in 2017 and 2018.

When Bunker asked if anyone in the audience wanted to express their opposition to the ordinance, nobody responded.

Three readings of the ordinance are required for final passage.

In addition during the meeting, council unanimously approved a consent agenda that included a resolution involving the Whiskey Road Corridor Study.

The resolution authorizes county officials to negotiate with and award a contract to Johnson, Mimiran & Thompson Inc., or JMT, to create the designs for the stormwater drainage improvements the Corridor Study recommends.

The county issued a request for qualifications in July. Six companies responded, and the Whiskey Road Engineering Committee, which includes representatives from the City of Aiken, reviewed the qualifications and then asked three of the firms to submit proposals.

Two did so, and they made presentations to the Engineering Committee earlier this month.

According to the resolution, JMT received the “Highest Average Total Points Score” from the Engineering Committee.

The other firm was Stantec, which prepared the Corridor Study for the county.

JMT is an architectural and engineering firm headquartered in Hunt Valley, Maryland.

Also on the consent agenda that Council approved was a resolution that authorizes Bunker to execute a contract with Sitec LLC to complete work on Giant Tire Parkway in Sage Mill Industrial Park in the Graniteville area.

The unfinished portion of the project is located at a railroad crossing. There was delay while Norfolk Southern finished moving the crossing’s safety equipment, County Administrator Clay Killian said.

Sitec is a construction firm based in North Augusta.

Killian said money from the county’s current road maintenance budget and Capital Fund would be used to cover the cost, which Sitec estimates will be nearly $127,500.

In another matter, Council unanimously approved the third and final reading of an ordinance that amends the county’s airport zoning provisions based on recommendations made by the South Carolina Aeronautics Commission.

The panel also unanimously approved the third and final reading of an ordinance that changes the zoning district for approximately 6.75 acres along Club Drive in the Cedar Creek community in Aiken from Residential Conservation to Planned Unit Development Type B.

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