By MATT HOPF
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Animal control officers in Quincy and Adams County have seen their workload increase after staffing was cut in half because of budget reductions.
Both the city and county employed two animal control officers, but the city left one position vacant in 2012 when an officer decided to return to work at Central Services, and the county laid off one if its two officers in November.
This leaves Quincy Animal Control Officer Steve Scherer and Adams County Animal Warden Jenny Benjamin to handle all duties.
"I've basically been by myself in the city," Scherer said. "The police officers help out quite a bit when I need or when I'm on vacation. They have to."
Quincy animal control officers handled more than 3,300 calls in 2011, the last year for which records are available. Officers recovered 1,180 domestic and 274 wild animals that year.
Scherer said two animal control officers were able to divide the city and stagger work hours so at least one officer was on duty during the day. Since the reduction, he admits he has not been able to check known trouble spots as frequently.
"Basically, what I do is pick up stray dogs that either people have detained or that people have seen and try to return them to the owner or take them to the shelter," Scherer said. "The same thing with cats. If people catch cats, we pick them up."
Police Chief Rob Copley said the workload has increased for Scherer. He hopes to get the second position reinstated in the fiscal year budget that begins May 1.
"He has his normal duties and then he is the only one on call, so when he's needed, he's called in," Copley said. "So he's getting quite a bit of overtime, plus he's busy all the time because he's handling the extra workload."
Sheriff Brent Fischer said Benjamin works days Monday through Friday.
"In the evening hours, we just handle calls as they come in, whether it's a dog running at-large or a barking complaint," Fischer said. "But if it's a bite call, if Jenny's not on, we'll have one of our deputies handle the bite report."
Fischer said corrections officers have also helped input animal registrations into the county's system as time allows.
"(Benjamin) is staying extremely busy, but she's doing the best she can," he said.
Fischer said it is too early to say if the second full-time animal warden would be included in next year's budget, which starts Dec. 1.
"As of right now, I can't say that I've had a lot of people jumping up and down and saying we've got to do something about this, but if it gets to be a problem where we're not handling it as well as we should or really gets to overrunning us, we might have to address it," he said.
Scherer said reducing the feral cat population has been affected.
"It's time consuming to set traps," he said. "We get a license from the state to set them. We set them in areas that people are complaining about, and we have to check it once or twice a day."
Animal control also receives many calls during the spring and early fall for bats, he said.
"We have a lot of older houses in Quincy, so we have lot of bats in the attics of these houses, which is fairly normal and not really a problem unless they stray into your living quarters," Scherer said. "If they do stray into your living quarters, then I go get them, because there's a chance of catching rabies from a bat if you handle it and get bit."