MT. JULIET, Tenn. (WKRN) – The growth in Mt. Juliet will likely mean cuts to its animal control department to help fund hiring more officers.
Mt. Juliet’s police chief told News 2 the decision to reduce funding to the animal control division of his department is necessary to immediately hire new officers.
“There are other things as far as bodies needing to be on the road,” Chief James Hambrick said. “So we have to increase our force.”
Since 2010, Mt. Juliet has grown by at least 14 percent, according to the U.S. Census. There are more developments both residential and commercial happening around the city.
“We have the distinction of being the sixth safest city in the state,” Chief Hambrick said. “That’s a great accomplishment but I am not satisfied with that because number one is still out there to be attained.”
The likely impact on animal control will be the reduction of one animal control officer and adoption hours being reduced to appointment only.
“It is not to minimize the animals it is just a thing to prioritizing our needs in the city of Mt. Juliet,” he said.
Currently the department has 43 sworn officers, which is two less than the 45 the city budgeted for right now. Chief Hambrick said he would also be requesting four new officer positions in next year’s budget.
“We need to have more people on the street to deter crime,” he told News 2.
Ideally, Chief Hambrick would like to have 50-55 sworn officers. Lebanon, which is similar in population size, has around 70 sworn officers.
Animal control is a department within the Mt. Juliet Police Department. The current budget for animal control is $310,000. The proposal would reduce the budget to $180,000.
Chief Hambrick would use the money to hire two new officers and purchase a new patrol car.
“We are a proactive department and we don’t want to get to the point where we are a reactive to crime all the time,” Chief Hambrick said. “We want to be proactive to deter crime.”
He continued, “We could look at going to a 10-hour shift and have an overlapping shift schedule to allow maximum personnel during peak times.”
District 1 Commissioner Ray Justice said growth will lead to more decisions about the best way to allocate city resources to accommodate the new people moving to Mt. Juliet.
“When residents increase, services have to increase to be kept at a certain level,” Justice said. “We are having growing pains and the only Tylenol we have is in the form of a dollar.”
The animal shelter is supported heavily by volunteers and city officials, which will help if the budget reduction is approved.