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How Forsyth County's growth is impacting the animal shelter
FCN Forsyth County Administration Building

Looking back on the first five years of the Forsyth County Animal Shelter and the county’s new animal services department, an update on Eagle Point Landfill and new options to keep climbers off a formerly used bridge over the Chattahoochee River were among items discussed at a meeting this week of the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners.

All votes were 5-0 unless otherwise noted.

Furry Forsyth

Commissioners heard from officials with the Forsyth County Animal Shelter, which will celebrate its fifth anniversary this summer, and the new animal services department – a new department after animal control went from being overseen by the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office to the county – along with updates on a proposed dog park near the shelter.

“In 2020’s budget submittal, we have requested several new positions, so we wanted to take the opportunity to make you aware of all the growth and changes that are going on in our department and answer any questions you have about our direction,” said shelter manager Cynthia Iacopella.

After opening in August 2014, Iacopella said the shelter has taken in far more animals than dogs and cats – such as horses, pigs and birds – and is seeing an increase in animal issues as the county grows.

“With population increase, you’re seeing more issues, more strays, your intake goes up, you see more of a feral cat problem because of development and the cat is pushed out,” she said.

In 2018, the shelter took in a total of 1,815 animals, an increase over 1,460 in 2017 and 1,336 in 2016.

Animal Services Supervisor Haley Woodard, who has been with the county for about six months, said the department has been doing education in the community rather than being punitive.

“It’s more the educate than enforce policy and idea,” she said. “When I’m coming out about your dog being tethered, it’s not, ‘Hey, here’s your ticket, we’ll see you in court.’ It’s more of a, ‘Okay sir, the dog can’t be tethered. That was recently changed. What can we do to help?’”

Woodard said she is more focused on saving animal lives than writing tickets.

Commissioners and county officials also discussed the proposed Coal Mountain Dog Park, planned beside the animal shelter on County Way.

Deputy County Manager Tim Merritt said the project is estimated to cost $783,585 and the county has $220,000 in existing funds and $300,000 in SPLOST VIII funds earmarked for the project, leaving a shortfall of about $264,000 that District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills plans to make up in contributions and donations.

“We’re hoping that once it goes out to bid it comes back lower,” Mills said.

Mills said she has donations committed from many members of the community.

Commissioners approved the budget and to move forward with bidding the project.

Building around bridge

Forsyth County is trying a new strategy for keeping swimmers off Settles Bridge, a bridge built in 1916 to connect Forsyth and Gwinnett counties.

Previously, the county approved to remove steel beams that connect Settles Bridge to land in Forsyth County in an attempt to stop swimmers from jumping off the structure.

“You may remember this is the bridge that has been accessed illegally by individuals, and they go out to the middle of the bridge and jump into the Chattahoochee River,” Merritt said. “We’ve had some unfortunate events that have happened there.”

In 2017, two swimmers died after jumping off the structure in separate incidents.

The new plan involves a barrier wall on the bridge to prevent jumping.

Latest on landfills

Commissioners heard two items during the meeting related to the Eagle Point Landfill in northwest Forsyth.

The board accepted an audit report of the landfill host fee payments for the last three years.

“When we were negotiating the [memorandum of understanding in 2017], it came up time and time again by the neighbors that they were not paying us what they were supposed to and that there were trucks going around the scales,” Mills said. “Advanced [Disposal] was very willing to let this be a part of it because they were very insistent that this was not happening.”

The agreement also required the landfill to pay the county $1.50 for each ton of waste. The county previously received $1 per ton of commercial demolition waste, or debris from construction, and $1.25 per ton for everyday items.

In 2028, the county will begin receiving $2 per ton and would increase at the same ratio as any change to the state minimum fee.

The county also received access to security footage of the landfill’s scales where trucks are weighed — which will be streamed live to the county’s office — will be able to do audits of the landfill’s books and the landfill will have guaranteed space for the county’s waste.

Commissioners also approved a remediation project to enhance a current corrective action plan for the closed Hightower Landfill, located near Eagle Point, that would include upgrades to existing trenches, solar-powered flare units, repair of a methane well and new trench construction.