City of Florence officials are evaluating the staffing needs of the new $3 million Florence-Lauderdale Animal Services facility to see if additional employees are needed.

At first glance, the answer seems rather obvious.

The 13,000 square foot new shelter, which opened the middle of May, is more than three times as large as the former shelter. It has more than 3.5 times the number of animal cages than the prior facility did — 219 kennels compared to 60.

And in July, city and county officials announced work was underway to clear 12-plus acres of land behind the new shelter at 3240 Roberson Road in the Florence-Lauderdale Industrial Park. The $150,000 project will create pastureland to house large animals such as horses and cattle that are confiscated during animal abuse investigations.

Currently, there are four full-time and four part-time employees trying to operate and maintain the new shelter. Two weeks ago, one of the many volunteers who help fill the gaps for those taxed employees addressed city council members and told them that’s simply not enough workers.

“There is too much money put into this facility to let it fall apart due to inadequate staffing,” said Chapel King, volunteer and adoption event coordinator.

She pointed out that for years, unpaid volunteers were called upon to man the old facility because of improper staffing. The size difference and the increased maintenance requirements for the new shelter will require even more commitment from volunteers.

“Florence is better than this situation,” King said.

She’s right.

Surely city officials had to realize that building a shelter three times the size of the old 4,000 square foot facility would require more manpower to operate. That’s just common sense, right?

On the week that King offered her viewpoints to council members, the shelter was housing more than 200 animals. All told, it can house 400.

But if 8 employees can’t handle 200 animals, why do city officials believe they can handle twice that number?

And how stretched do those paid employees become in a few months when you throw in the requirement of having to handle large animals confiscated because of abuse? After all, caring for abused animals elevates the time commitment necessary for the care of those animals.

Mayor Steve Holt used a seasonal argument to dance around King’s concerns. The number of animals typically housed during winter months is lower than the rest of the year, which gives city and county officials more time to analyze the staffing needs, he said.

“We’ll look at it in a few months,” Holt told King. “For now, we’ll stay where we are.”

That’s a disappointing stance in light of the city’s open pocketbook approach since it passed along a 1% percent increase in sales tax that will generate $9.5 million in extra income each year.

City leaders used nearly $1.5 million of that total to give raises to police and firefighters, so is it really too much to ask to hire a couple of additional workers for a new shelter?

We think not. In fact, those staffing adjustments should have been made before the shelter opened its doors.

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