Richmond County businessman Richard Lord says he does not want to compete with a tax-funded competitor unburdened by having to turn a profit.
The owner of Paradise Pet Cemetery and Crematorium spoke out at last week's Columbia County Board of Commissioners meeting against a proposal that would allow the county to open its recently acquired pet incinerator to private customers. The incinerator is now used mostly to dispose of roadkill.
"The county does need an incinerator, but they step over the line when they want to do private cremations," Lord told county commissioners.
The commissioners narrowly kept a proposal for Columbia County Animal Care and Control to conduct private pet cremations alive by a 3-2 vote.
A second reading and final vote of the ordinance will be conducted at the commission's next regular meeting Sept. 16 at 6:30 p.m. in the Columbia County Government Center Auditorium.
Commissioner Diane Ford, who with Mark Devoti and Tom Mercer voted in favor of the ordinance, said she has been contacted by several residents who would prefer utilizing the existing incinerator and keeping the fee money within Columbia County.
Commissioner Steve Brown and Chairman Ron Cross voted against the idea, arguing that the county should not use it services to undercut privately owned businesses.
Animal control proposes charging $75 to conduct a private cremation. Lord already is providing that service, but at a $150 minimum rate per animal.
Ericka Dean, a member of the Columbia County Animal Care and Control Advisory Board said the number of annual private cremations is expected to be low.
"As a service to taxpaying citizens of Columbia County, Animal Care and Control desires to offer cremation services to the general public simply as a convenience," Dean said. "Animal Care and Control does not intend to compete with private enterprise or try to support the incinerator by solely providing private cremations."
Also during Tuesday's commission meeting, Leah restaurant owner Cathy Walton cleared rezoning and licensing hurdles to open a liquor store near the intersection of Ray Owens and Washington roads.
Citing traffic and safety concerns, more than 25 Leah residents showed up to the meeting to voice their opposition to the package store.
County commissioners unanimously approved rezoning Walton's building for commercial use and granting her a liquor license. Commissioners said they had to apply licensing requirements, which Walton had met, to the entire county.
Also approved at Tuesday's meeting:
* Commissioners voted to create a master plan for the county's fire services. The county will pay a private firm $20,500 to develop the plan, which is expected to take three months.
* The first reading of an update to the county's animal control ordinance passed. The update would require two complaints instead of one before a pet owner is charged with having a public-nuisance animal.
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