EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

January 6, 2013

Danville seeks to eliminate elected ACO

DANVILLE — Only two months before voters choose an animal control officer, selectmen are looking to eliminate the position.

But that doesn’t mean the town will go to the dogs, according to Selectmen’s Chairman Shawn O’Neil.

Danville would still contract with Plaistow for animal control services if selectmen eliminate the post.

Danville has relied on Plaistow since selectmen eliminated the town’s part-time post in 2011, leaving seven-year animal control officer Sheila Johannesen without a job. Johannsen claimed O’Neil had a “personal vendetta” against her, which he denied. O’Neil said the town would save thousands of dollars a year by contracting out for animal control services.

Johannsen fought back, proposing a citizen petition last year that called for the position’s reinstatement. Residents voted, 418-263, in March to restore the elected office.

Johannesen said she plans to run for the job, but O’Neil said selectmen have finalized a warrant article for the town ballot that would eliminate the position.

“The townspeople spoke very clearly that they wanted the post to stay an elected position,” Johannesen said.

O’Neil said cutting the elected office is still in the town’s best interest because of the cost savings. But Johannesen said if Danville doesn’t have its own animal control officer, it would miss out on thousands of dollars in dog licensing fees and fines.

The town has budgeted $3,420 for this year, after allocating $6,500 a year ago and not spending the full amount, O’Neil said. That compares to Johannesen’s part-time salary of $11,300 in 2011 that was later reduced to a $7,500 stipend. She earned about $9,300 in 2010.

“The budget was reduced well over 70 to 80 percent from when she was doing it,” O’Neil said.

Johannesen and O’Neil often clashed over the animal control budget. The warrant article approved last year does not stipulate how much the animal control officer would be paid.

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