CLOVERDALE -- What was originally supposed to be a special meeting of the Cloverdale Town Council to discuss amendments to the 2008 budget devolved into contentious squabbling over the Cloverdale Police Department's retired police dog Tuesday night.
When it was over, the council voted 4-1, with John Davis dissenting, to allow Police Chief Charlie Hallam to keep the dog, Alec, though Hallam would assume all financial responsibility for the animal's care.
The row began when Council President Don Sublett suggested adopting the dog, which ended its nearly eight-year career at the end of May, to a local family. Sublett also asked Hallam to return the town's unmarked police car to the town hall.
The car, which has cages and equipment to transport the dog, has been parked outside Hallam's home.
The disagreement stems from a letter Hallam sent to town Clerk-Treasurer Patti Truax on May 15 informing her that he was retiring the police dog, though the town would still pay for the food and medical expenses of the animal.
Sublett and Council Vice President Dennis Padgett said at Tuesday's meeting that since the letter had not been sent to the board for approval, Hallam's claims -- particularly the town's continued financial responsibility for the dog -- were not valid.
The debate split, as it nearly always does, with Sublett, Padgett and council member Glen Vickroy on one side and Davis and Council member Judy Whitaker on the other.
Whitaker and Davis both repeatedly called Sublett's move to deny the town's responsibility to pay for the care of the dog, "kicking a retired member of the police force to the curb."
When Sublett referred to a local television news report that no Indianapolis-area police departments pay for the expenses of retired police dogs, Hallam produced a letter from Putnam County Sheriff Mark Frisbie describing the Sheriff's Department's policy on K9 units which is, among other things, to allow the dog's handler to adopt the animal and to pay for its food and medical expenses for the rest of its life.
Hallam estimated that the care of the dog would amount to about $1,200 per year and since, he said, Cloverdale's K9 program was funded for many years through community donations, the money all evened out.
As debate about the issue grew, so too did tension among the council members and the volume of their voices. This went doubly for the assorted partisan members of the community sitting in the audience.
The matter finally ended when Hallam offered to pay for the care of the dog and the staff of the Animal Hospital of Cloverdale announced that Casey R. Shake, the dog's veterinarian, wouldn't charge for all of the animal's future medical bills.
The council also voted 3-2, with Davis and Whitaker dissenting, to order Hallam to return the unmarked police car to town hall. Padgett offered a motion to sell the car. Sublett broke with his voting bloc to compromise and defeat that move 3-2 after Hallam protested on the grounds that the extra vehicle might be needed if one of the active-duty police cars breaks down or is damaged.
The council also added two line items to its 2008 budget with money it had earlier shaved off.
At Whitaker's recommendation, it voted to approve $2,500 for tree removal and maintenance along U.S. 231.
It also voted to create a $3,600 building demolition and restoration fund to begin to address the problem of derelict buildings in town.
The budget goes up for final approval at the council's 7 p.m. Sept. 11 regular meeting.