News From Terre Haute, Indiana

October 9, 2013

Bird storage fee ruffles Council’s feathers

Humane shelter bills county $20K for holding roosters

Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Several members of the Vigo County Council seem to consider a nearly $20,000 bill the county faces for the “incarceration” of roosters simply a cock-a-maiming idea.

Vigo County Commissioner Brad Anderson, speaking at Tuesday’s County Council meeting, said the county was charged for “incarcerating 40 roosters that were held as evidence from roosters fighting.”

Sheriff Greg Ewing said the birds, under a court order, were held as evidence from a March investigation of a cock-fighting operation that spanned Vigo and Sullivan counties. A Farmersburg man and a Sullivan man were arrested on criminal charges of possessing animals for fighting-contest purposes.

Ewing said the sheriff’s department took the animals to the Terre Haute Humane Shelter, but the birds remained at the shelter for more than 40 days until they were no longer needed as evidence. The birds were then released to various farms.

The original bill was $17,900, to which was added a 10-percent penalty for being late in payment, Anderson said.

Commissioner Mike Ciolli told the council the late fee does not apply as the county’s contract with the humane shelter states payment must be approved by the council. “The money has to first be obligated,” Ciolli said.

And then came humor over a case of ruffled feathers.

“We’re paying for the incarceration of chickens?” asked Council President Bill Thomas.

“Roosters,” Anderson said, who said the birds had to be kept separated and had to be allowed to roam daily, making holding the birds a labor-intensive job.

Councilman Tim Curley said it would have been cheaper for the birds to have been shipped to Knox County, where Vigo County inmates were moved in August to relieve overcrowding at Vigo’s jail at a cost of  $35 a day per inmate.

Councilman Mark Bird said the county should have simply “given the birds to Kentucky Fried Chicken.” He later stated that with issues such as the roosters, “no wonder Chick-fil-A opened here.”

President Thomas, turning the conversation serious again, told the council he wanted the payment tabled until a representative of the Terre Haute Humane Shelter could come before the council “and bring a more realistic charge. I feel we are being overcharged.”

The issue will go back before the council in November.

In other matters, the council approved $85,000 for a solid waste district. The county has established a nonreverting fund for “host fees” from the disposal of solid waste in the county at the Sycamore Ridge Landfill. That fee has generated $103,607 so far this year. In addition, the county will receive tipping fees that will continue to be deposited into the county’s general fund, Ciolli said.

The county expects to generate about $144,000 a year, Anderson said, with a budget of more than $130,000 for the district in 2014. “It should fund itself without a problem,” Anderson told the council.

Vigo County withdrew from the Clay-Owen-Vigo Solid Waste District in May to form its own single district. Ciolli said the district board wanted to raise tippings fees. Vigo commissioners did not want to raise the fee because Vigo County would have lost the 31 cents per ton it receives as host county.

Vigo County will continue to receive 25 cents per ton in tipping fees. “Now the county gets 56 cents instead of 31 cents that stays in Vigo County, and hopefully some day we will get one of these or both of these fees up and that stays in Vigo County,” Ciolli said after the meeting.

The county has about six months left to form its own district and implement a solid waste plan for it.

One event already planned is a “Tox-Away Day” on Oct. 19 at the Vigo County Fairgrounds. That event will cost the county about $10,000 to disposal of collected materials, such as varnishes, oil-based paint, refrigerators, air conditioners, freezers, insecticides and numerous other items that will be collected.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or