“It’s the right thing to do,” Calhoun County Commissioner Eli Henderson said. “Hopefully a lot more people will understand what we do and what we have to do.”
Henderson said the commission has been discussing establishing a board for some time and decided to do so after accusations of animal cruelty at the facility surfaced in December. An investigation into the allegations yielded no criminal charges, but prompted the commission to establish the board to encourage transparency at the facility, according to commissioners.
“People think we have a secret organization and by getting people across the county involved on our board, they’ll have some input,” Henderson said.
The eight-member board was appointed by commissioners, the district attorney, the animal shelter’s veterinarian and by the Auburn University’s Canine Detection Training Center at McClellan. The board will meet regularly and will establish a website, Henderson said.
One of the most vocal critics of the center, John Wippler, was appointed to the board. After an investigation yielded no criminal charges, Wippler returned to the commission and apologized for lodging the allegations in a commission meeting. He said he had been misled.
At the December meeting where Wippler spoke out, he and other animal rights supporters accused control center employees of abusing animals over the years, keeping an unclean facility and euthanizing animals in an illegal manner, namely without sedating them first.
Multiple county employees said they received threatening emails from people across the United States after the public accusations were posted on the Internet, Henderson said.
In response, the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office, which is funded through the commission but operated independently, launched an investigation into the allegations. Deputies questioned about two dozen people but turned up no information that would indicate criminal negligence, Henderson said.
Millie Harris also made public animal abuse allegations against the center in December. She said the commission’s decision Thursday was a positive one.
“They have an opportunity to be a model for the slate,” Harris said. “The problems that we’ve had at the animal control center are not limited to Anniston.”
Board members appointed Thursday are John Wippler, Jerome Freeman, Brooke Nelson, Janet Odom, Nick Kaufman, Peggy Miller, Irene Evankovich and Tim Baird.
In other business, the commission:
• Approved nuisance abatements at 408 N. Hunter Street, Anniston, and on U.S. 78 East, Anniston.
• Opened bids for Community Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program bulk media mailing.
• Awarded a bid for the installation of backflow preventers at the Calhoun County Jail and Sheriff’s Office to Ted’s Plumbing of Anniston for $20,900.
• Leased four Mack dump trucks from for the Calhoun County Highway Department for $498,136.
• Entered into a contract with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management for the collection, removal, management and disposal of discarded scrap tires and associated solid waste.
• Approved a recycling grant application for the Calhoun County Recycling Center.
• Allocated $2,000 to the Vietnam Veterans of America.
• Allocated $1,000 to the Pleasant Valley Recreational Sports Association.
• Allocated $2,500 for a feasibility study to determine what recreational facilities and opportunities to seek concerning the Alabama Outdoor Adventure Park.
• Approved a part-time security guard contract for Melvin D. Womack.
• Allocated $9,000 to re-install a gate at Jacksonville State University.
Star staff writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544. and on Twitter @LJohnson_Star