Crestwood board, residents discuss city’s animal control position

By Kari Williams

Crestwood resident Megan Tennessen, Ward 4 Alderman Dan Tennessen’s daughter, was one of several residents who recently spoke against eliminating Crestwood’s animal control position.

“We should keep the animal control because, first of all, the animals need us,” Megan told the Board of Aldermen Aug. 14. “Animals are like children and people. They need food, water and shelter, just like us. Dogs and cats mean a lot to me. If we didn’t have the animal control all those poor puppies and kittens would already be put down.”

Megan also said children at Lindbergh Schools earn service hours by volunteering with animal control and the animal shelter.

“Volunteering at the animal control is a service. Of course, there (are) other ways to do service, but volunteering with the animal control is the perfect opportunity to get to know animals and have fun while doing a great service,” Megan said.

Resident Mary Wheat said more than 30 volunteers have logged roughly 1,000 hours of service from Jan. 1 to July 30 of this year.

Crestwood’s animal control and animal shelter have “grown from a simple impound facility to an accredited respected adoption organization,” according to Wheat.

“Revenues have grown, along with recommendations and respect from all over the county,” she said.

Crestwood’s animal control and shelter has an established reputation for “well-socialized, well-cared-for animals,” Wheat said.

“The shelter and animal control … are things to be bragged about, not constantly threatening to eliminate,” Wheat said.

The board previously discussed eliminating the animal control position when Macy’s announced its closing in 2009.

Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel said at the board’s request then-city administrator Jim Eckrich provided a cost-reduction plan, which included eliminating three police officers, three firemen and the animal control position and “one or two other positions.” All positions were eliminated except animal control.

The board voted twice — once in November 2009 and once in March 2010 — to eliminate the position in a 4-4 vote. Former Mayor Roy Robinson broke both ties to retain the position.

Regarding the argument of cutting the city budget, Wheat said Crestwood pays “very little” — roughly $45,000 — for animal control services. The animal shelter in Whitecliff Park does not require city funds to operate.

Additionally, Wheat said the animal control budget was reduced by roughly $6,000 in April 2011. Over a 30-year period, the animal control position has decreased from an animal control officer and two rangers on 24-hour call to only the animal control officer with set hours.

Crestwood’s animal control has handled the following calls, Wheat said:

• A deer carcass dumped into a creek in a residential area.

• A chipmunk took up residence in a resident’s toilet.

• A bat fell out of a resident’s patio umbrella.

• A squirrel got loose inside the UPS store then later it moved into the mall.

Tennessen questioned if there will be a savings versus having the police “backfill” what the county does not serve presently, referencing a memo from Jan. 7, 2010, which notes “several cities have police do supporting work that the county doesn’t serve.”

“Creve Coeur eliminated the service but maintained their employee to take care of some of the support work for this kind of work, and two other cities on this list maintained their control services,” Tennessen said. “So it’s not necessarily clear to me that the county is really going to run this without our investments.”

Former Ward 1 Alderman Rich Bland told the board though the animal control debate is not new, it is “a little disturbing and seems a little short sighted.”

“Instead of deciding that everything that isn’t absolutely necessary needs to be cut, take a look at ways of saving things. Because the focus is wrong,” he said.

Bland said he hopes there is foresight to look to the future and try to come up with some “out-of-the-box thinking” to support the city and its staff.

“I really don’t think, and I would really hope, that Crestwood isn’t the kind of community that is so intent on cutting things, especially something like this, that isn’t really going to fix all of the city’s problems,” he said.