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Emotions run high during fiery council meeting

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By LPR Staff
Editor/POST-REGISTER

Harsh words and harsher accusations were the order of the evening during a lengthy meeting of the Lockhart City Council on Tuesday. Most of the two-hour meeting was dominated by discussion of the Lockhart Animal Shelter, the treatment of the animals at that facility, and the shelter’s relationship with local non-profit group

Cause for Paws.

District 4 Councilmember Richard Banks raised concerns recently that he had been told the shelter’s administration and staff were making it difficult for area rescue groups to take animals out of the shelter for off-premise adoption.

While City Manager Vance Rodgers was gathering information on the initial allegations, Banks sent another message demanding the shelter be investigated, prompting Mayor James “Jimmy” Bertram to bring the issues before the council on the whole.

“I normally would not have posted this item on the agenda, but I knew the accusations to not be accurate and I put this on the agenda to bring this to a halt, and let the business of that department go forward,” Bertram said. He claimed he and Rodgers had spent hours of the previous week researching the concerns, to discover they were, in Bertram’s words, “exaggerated.”

Banks, too, apologized for the item having been brought before council, but offered a different idea as to the reasoning behind the agenda item.

“It was handled this way because you all [the council] were cut out of this controversy,” he said. “The city manager and the mayor went off on a white-wash… They prepared these numbers [regarding the euthanasia and population rates at the Lockhart Animal Shelter, as well as at other shelters] which may or may not be true…”

Banks was derided by At Large Councilmember Paul Gomez for making accusations that Bertram or Rodgers had fabricated the figures. Banks immediately apologized, saying it was not his intent to make such an accusation.

Much of the information presented on the conditions at the shelter was offered by Cause for Paws, an organization which, until recently, has existed for the sole purpose of helping the shelter. However, that relationship has become tenuous in recent months because of what Cause for Paws president Leslie Banks called an inability to form “a working relationship” with Animal Services Director Melanie Tucker.

Tucker did not speak to the accusations made by either Banks, Patti Hickman and Honorina Martinez that her staff had insulted or alienated patrons and rescue groups. However, Mac McGregor, one of the individuals involved in animal rescue cited in R. Banks’ original list of concerns, said that he had, and hoped to continue to have, a strong relationship with the shelter and its staff.

“Maybe I’ve been here too long,” Mayor Pro Tem Frank Estrada said. “But every councilmember comes here with their own agenda and their own things they want to do. My personal goal was curbs and gutters for District 2. But I still don’t have curbs and gutters, and I haven’t demanded an investigation of the Street Department because of it.”

District 1 Councilmember Kenny Roland also expressed concern that R. Banks had brought the issue forward, since it was a personnel issue, and many of the concerns were raised by an organization in which his wife sits as president.

In the end, no decisions were made and no action taken, either to investigate the shelter to sever the city’s ties with Cause for Paws.

In brief news:
The Council authorized the Lockhart Fire Department to pursue a grant under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act which may help to provide the funds for building a new fire station.

The Lockhart City Council meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. in the Glosserman Conference Room at Lockhart City Hall.

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