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Drug-sniffing dog approved by 3-2 vote

COAL GROVE — If every dog has its day, one K-9 had his on Tuesday.

It was standing-room only when the Village of Coal Grove Council convened for its regular meeting in anticipation of a vote on whether to create a K-9 unit for the Coal Grove Police Department.

Coal Grove Police Department Corporal Mike Delawder told council during the meeting that everything is in place to purchase Nero, a Belgian Malinois, to be the department’s drug-sniffing dog for $8,500.

“These donations are from corporations, citizens and local mom-and-pop business owners,” Delawder told council while holding up a stack envelopes bound by a rubber band. “I understand that there is concerns about the long-term fees for the dog.”

Two donations in particular, Delawder said, would provide for the dog’s long-term care. Tom LeMaster has pledged $500 and the Dawson-Bryant School District has pledged $4,325 annually for the dog’s care and food.

Insurance on the dog will cost $150 per year and if Nero is killed or dies for unknown reasons the insurance company will pay up to $10,000 to replace the dog.

“I will keep the dog at my house and pay for his food. It is not an issue,” Delawder said. “I don’t see how this can actually hurt us in the long run. I know there is some skepticism about the financial aspect of this.”

Delawder said the dog is strictly for narcotics detection in schools and vehicles and is not aggressive.

Council member Randy Wise said when not on duty and called to the scene with the dog the village would incur costs from having to pay Delawder, to which he responded he works nights and that is when most of probable cause searches occur.

If terminated or if he leaves the department on his own will, Delawder said he would be willing to sign a contract keeping him from taking the dog or asking the village for reimbursement.

Maybe the most outspoken opponent of establishing the K-9 unit is council member Eric Holmes, who said getting the dog right now is “bad timing” and puts the village in a “bad situation.”

“We have issues with the fire department that have to be met, deadlines that have to be met,” he said. “Yet we are going to take on something else, that we don’t know what it will cost. It’s a guessing game. Granted we have had donations given to us, but those same people, I guarantee you, haven’t been told about our dire need for our fire department and the equipment we are going to have to purchase. They would have given that money for that just as well.”

The application of a user fee to the village residents’ water bills, Holmes said, is highly likely just to pay for the fire department’s new turnout gear that has to be purchased by the end of this month.

“I’m not sure why there is such a hurry,” Holmes said. “I thought we were going to discuss it more.”

Council member Tim Sexton responded to Holmes’ claim that he told the officers to start getting donations.

“They went and got the donations on their own,” Sexton said. “I encouraged them to because I told them if they can get the money to raise the dog I am for it 100 percent.”

Coal Grove resident Jhonda Collins spoke in support of the dog.

“As a citizen of Coal Grove I can see why people donated money to buy this dog,” she said. “What I’m hearing is that these break-ins and things that are getting so bad is because people need money for drugs. Thank goodness these crimes haven’t turned violent. Things like this is what the hurry is.”

Resident Dottie Webb lives in one of the homes that was recently broken into and she also spoke in support of the dog.

“I don’t think the dog will solve our drug problem but I think it would help in some ways,” Webb said. “It can’t hurt. I also don’t think people will march on Coal Grove if there is a user fee placed on our water bill. We didn’t march the last time it was raised.”

Coal Grove Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief Jay Sherman said he doesn’t think the dog will fix the drug problem, but after installing $2,400 in security equipment at his house, he thinks the dog will deter some of the problems.

Sexton made the motion to accept the donations and schedule Delawder’s training, which was seconded by council member Sam Hall. Shawn McDaniel, Sexton and Hall voted “yes” while Wise and Holmes voted “no.” Council member Kim McKnight passed, saying she could not vote either way until a policy was in place.

Delawder’s training should commence mid- to late-October and a policy would be in place prior.