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Rusk County commissioners talk burn bans, library, K-9s

By Angela Ward
Aug. 20, 2013 at 10 p.m.

HENDERSON - Dogs, burn bans and library business dominated Tuesday's meeting of the Rusk County Commissioners Court.

A good portion of the meeting was devoted to Pct. 3 Constable Tim Barton and a dog named Tig that he wants to use as a K-9 unit. Barton said he will personally pay for the expenses of procuring and providing for the dog; he just needed the court's approval to use a dog in his duties.

After watching demonstrations involving Tig, Barton and Tig's current owner and trainer, the court agreed to the request.

Tig - a Dutch Shepherd - is triple-trained for narcotics, bite work and tracking, Barton said. If Barton doesn't get re-elected or otherwise doesn't continue as a constable for the county, Tig would be returned to his current owner and probably eventually paired with another law enforcement officer.

"I think Tig will be an asset for the entire county," Barton said. The dog will be useful in all capacities, but Barton said he's actually most excited about his ability to track, which will be helpful not only in apprehending suspects but in finding children or senior citizens who might be lost.

Ironically, the court also authorized the sheriff's department to put one of its K-9 unit dogs up for auction. Deputy Jason Smith, the officer who works with the dog, is leaving the department and Sheriff Jeff Price said it would be more cost-efficient to purchase a new dog than try to retrain this dog with a new partner. The officer who has been working with the dog plans to bid on him, Price said.

In other business, the court instituted a provisional burn ban for the county, meaning that any outdoor burns must be watched at all times and there must be a hose or other source of water available to put the fire out immediately if necessary.

Pct. 1 Commissioner Bill Hale said there was a fire in his precinct Monday that might have been prevented had a burn ban been in effect.

Near the end of the meeting, two women spoke in public comment about the firing in June of children's librarian Julie Allen from the main branch of the county library in Henderson. The court cannot act on matters brought up in public comment, only listen to the speakers and possibly put the issue on a future agenda.

Melissa Merritt told commissioners Allen was an "amazing" children's librarian and asked why she was removed from staff. Merritt also said the number of children using the library has dropped dramatically since Allen's departure.

Beca Herrera said that she didn't know Allen outside the library but that, as a home schooling family, Allen had been an important resource for her and her children.

"To us, she was the Rusk County Library," Herrera said.

Both women asked commissioners to look into the matter and get answers to their questions.

Julie Allen, who was not at the meeting, said she was not given a reason for her termination when she was fired in June.

Allen said she began her employment at the library as a part-time employee in August of 2000 and was promoted to the children' librarian, a full-time position, in May of 2004.

"I feel very honored that these women think so highly of me that they would speak up publicly on my behalf," Allen said.



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