Hale, Botts, Houchens, and Bowman support it, while Dickerson, Sartin, Riddle, and Coomer do not
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The Barren County Fiscal Court split 4-4 in a vote requesting the county purchase a horse trailer for loose livestock animals in last week’s meeting after the discussion spiraled into a discussion revolving around the horses at the state park.
Magistrate Jeff Botts, also chairman of the Administrative and Budget Committee, brought the issue before the court despite later implying he was unsure why his committee received the request.
Solid Waste Coordinator and Code Enforcement Officer Jamie Cummins requested purchasing the horse trailer to help with transporting loose livestock as she has been assisting local animal control in capturing several types of animals such as pigs, donkeys, and horses. Their owners often abandon these animals.
Cummins presented two quotes for two different trailers in the amounts of $6,800 and $7,200. Botts would later make a motion to accept the higher quote.
Magistrate Carl Dickerson asked Cummins how often the need arose for a livestock trailer in the last fiscal year. She replied, “at least six times.”
Cummins explained the details surrounding what happens when the county receives a call for a loose animal. She said calling local area farmers who have trailers has helped the county pick up livestock.
County Judge/Executive Micheal Hale said the county becomes responsible for livestock that may present a hazardous situation in roadways.
“A lot of the problem we’re getting into, Magistrate Dickerson, is folks just leaving their homes and they’re just leaving the animals there and they may get out on the road,” Hale continued, “Once we’re notified, hey, the responsibility is on us.”
Hale said the county assists animal control “a lot” and they try to disperse the animals in different areas, but regardless, the hazard has to be removed.
Shelley Furlong, animal control officer, told the court there is a specific Kentucky Revised Statute (KRS) that says the judge is responsible for livestock that is loose. Furlong also said owners need to be held responsible for their animals.
Magistrate Trent Riddle asked what happens to the animals once they’re put into a trailer and Hale replied attempts are made to find a farmer who will take and care for them. Hale said removing potential hazards created by large livestock is their “main” concern.
Riddle said with some coordination efforts with local farmers, a trailer would be unneeded and the county could save the money it would spend on it.
Hale then told Riddle, “Okay, I want you to compile a list for me, get that done…because we’ll have a call today I’m quite confident, and we can’t sit there and wait.”
Riddle disagreed and stated that, in fact, the county could wait. “We’ve dealt with it for all these years,” Riddle said.
Hale said the situation has “gotten worse” and that “you guys don’t deal with it like we do.”
Botts interjected and said everything should be brought to the table suggesting there is more to the appearing simple request being made.
“Here’s basically what I’m—let’s just bring it on the table…” Botts said, “Bottom line is there’s this air of dark horses that I think is reason this may not pass.”
He continued, “Is it potentially going to be used for the horses that we’ve been dealing with for three years?”
Botts was referring to nine abandoned horses in the county that were ultimately rehoused at the state park and the previous owner was charged with several counts of animal cruelty over the matter a few years ago.
With this brought to the forefront of discussion, Dickerson said the people of Barren County needed to know how much money the county spent on those horses.
“It is their money…” Dickerson said, “but the people that are watching us on TV today and people in the audience probably need to know if we spent forty to fifty thousand dollars on the horses because I don’t know.”
Hale responded and told the court to prepare to write down what he was going to say before sharing details of the situation.
He said when the horses were first found abandoned at the state park, the Department of Agriculture and animal control forced the removal of them. Then, Steve Bull picked up the horses and cared for them during the investigation. Around that time, Hale said, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the nation and there was a monetary expense that continued to increase with Mr. Bull.
Hale said when the first round of the COVID-19 monies were received, the county was reimbursed about $26,000.
Hale also said many people in the county have also donated rolls of hay for the horses. He reminded the court that they had previously voted to enter an agreement with the state for the horses to return to the state park. He further said he has been working to bring together a program for special needs students to use the horses for therapy.
Dickerson, who patiently listened to Hale’s explanation, thanked the judge before returning to his original question.
“Thank you, Judge,” Dickerson said, “What’s the total amount?”
Hale said he didn’t have that information but he would follow up with the magistrate with those details at a later time.
Cummins told the court her request for the horse trailer was unrelated to the horses at the park.
Dickerson asked what happens to the captured livestock animals if owners are not found. He specifically wanted to know if they were euthanized.
“Under KRS, it falls under my responsibility,” Hale said, “and I’m not euthanizing, I can promise you.”
Ultimately, Botts said the money was in Cummins’ budget for the trailer and made a motion to accept the $7,200 quote to purchase the trailer from Miller and Brown.
Before the vote, Dickerson pointed out he had previously asked about the horses in a committee meeting and he was told, “I can’t tell you right now, I can tell you later.”
The motion failed due to a tie. Magistrates Dickerson, Riddle, Kenneth Sartin, and Tim Coomer voted in dissent while Botts, Hale, Mark Bowman, and Billy Houchens voted to approve the trailer purchase.
Hale concluded the topic by stating, “We’ll let the county attorney research it and we’ll come back to it.”