Commissioners agree to animal shelter volunteers 18 and older


The McDowell County Commission held their regular meeting for June on Monday.

The McDowell County Animal Shelter will have volunteers to assist with taking care of the cats and dogs there but they have to be 18 or older.

At Monday’s regular meeting, the McDowell County Commission took another look at the proposed use of volunteers at the animal shelter.

In recent months, representatives from some of the animal welfare groups have said they would like to volunteer with the running of the shelter. The board then asked county staff to develop guidelines for volunteers there. They would have to go through training before being allowed to help out at the shelter.

But last month, the commissioners also talked having a minimum age of 12 as long as they are accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. Apparently, most animal shelters allow for 16-year-old volunteers, according to county officials.

Commission Chairman David Walker said he was concerned about having volunteers younger than 18 being there because of the presence of controlled substances at the shelter. Other commissioners like Tony Brown and Lynn Greene felt differently. The commissioners agreed to have County Attorney Fred Coats look at the proposal and give them his opinion.

Coats recommended to the board that there should be a minimum age of 18 for animal shelter volunteers.

“I want to see this work and see it happen,” said Brown at Monday’s meeting. “I refuse to accept the fact we’re not going to allow younger kids get involved with this. This originated because younger people want to get involved.”

The commissioners agreed Monday to allow volunteers to help at the shelter and the minimum age will be 18. They also voted to revisit this matter in six months and consider the possibility of lowering the age limit.

In other business, the commissioners heard a report from Emergency Management Director William Kehler about the local response to the flooding during Tuesday, May 29 and Wednesday, May 30. The heavy rains and flooding caused by Tropical Storm Alberto caused widespread damage to public and private properties throughout the county. The McDowell 911 communications center received more than 800 calls during the night of May 29 and 17 people were rescued from the flash flooding.

Furthermore, an advisory was sent out that warned people living downstream from the Lake Tahoma Dam to evacuate because of “imminent failure” during the heavy rains and historic flooding. Kehler said he wants the public to understand that advisory was sent out the night of May 29 because they were notified of a Class 1 Emergency by the personnel who operate and maintain the Lake Tahoma Dam. The county Emergency Management officials said they followed the proper procedures whenever such a serious alert is sent out regarding a dam.

“We don’t issue that lightly,” he said to the commissioners.

That evacuation was lifted the next morning when an inspection of the dam determined the structure was safe and never in any danger of failure.

The heavy rain and flooding resulted in six people injured but no fatalities. So far, around 50 landslides/mudslides have been documented across McDowell County. The flooding damaged 30 residential structures and nine businesses. Twenty-four private bridges were damaged or destroyed and 28 private driveways were washed out. Folks at places like the Riverbreeze Campground had to be evacuated because of the flood waters and 85 RVs or campers were damaged. Six recreational parks/trails were impacted. There was also damage to water and sewer lines and streets and roads in Marion and Old Fort, according to Kehler.

The N.C. Department of Transportation reports $2.5 million in estimated damage across McDowell.

The county government has sustained around $100,000 in losses between property damage, employee overtime and supplies.

Officials with McDowell County, the city of Marion and the town of Old Fort are seeking federal disaster relief money to help pay for the repairs and cleanup. Commission Chairman David Walker said he was there that night in the 911 communications center, along with other local officials, and witnessed how well they handled the emergencies that were being reported. He said he was very impressed with the Emergency Management staff and their response.

“This is only the start of the hurricane season,” said Kehler. “Recovery will take time. Our objective is to be a more resilient community for disasters and we’re on our way of achieving that.”

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