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Local News

Status of Kendall County Animal Control facility inmate work program uncertain due to pandemic

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YORKVILLE – The immediate fate of Kendall County Animal Control's county jail inmate program remains uncertain as a result of continuing novel coronavirus pandemic.

Laura Pawson, director for Kendall County Animal Control, said during a Wednesday, June 24 Kendall County animal control committee meeting that pet adoptions would be starting back up by appointment only along with owner surrenders as the state keeps moving into Phase 4 of the state's Restore Illinois plan amid the COVID-19 crisis.

“That way, we can talk to [workers and volunteers] about proper social distancing, being prepared for the number of people coming into the shelter,” Pawson said.

Pawson said the animal control facility plans to have volunteer orientation in the coming month. She said the plan is also to have volunteer shifts staggered through an appointment scheduling system so there won't be too many volunteers in the building at once.

However, Pawson said, a couple of animal control staff members were not comfortable with starting the inmate work program after she talked to them about it. She said those staff members were not comfortable with it because of COVID-19 being more common in more closed quarters like the jail system in general.

For now, Pawson said, she'd like to keep it right now to the agency's regular volunteer program, which is pretty well staffed for the time being.

“I just really don’t want to have any extra exposure from the jail system,” Pawson said.

Kendall County Board Vice Chairwoman Amy Cesich, who heads the county's animal control committee, said the inmate program is available to non-violent inmates within Kendall County Jail who have shown good behavior. She said the inmate program has been suspended for as long as county has been doing renovations on the animal control building.

Cesich said inmates within the jail system are tested on a somewhat regular basis and there is a quarantine system in place for new inmates. She said she understands not wanting a lot of people in the newly remodeled animal control facility still, but she didn't want county officials to be worried about something that might not exist.

“They are not any more exposed than anybody else,” Cesich said.

Regardless, Cesich said, she plans on talking to the sheriff about it.

Kendall County Adminstrator Scott Koeppel said the main thing was to have the animal control facility get back up and running and give long running volunteers the chance to sign up. He said staff then will reevaluate moving forward and talking to sheriff after everything is back up and running.

Cesich said there were no positive cases of COVID-19 within the jail that she was aware of as of last week. She said there also is a screening process in place for new inmates before they join the general jail population.

“So they’re trying to keep it from even entering the general population,” Cesich said.

Cesich said she wants staff to be comfortable and ultimately takes no issues with having things running somewhat normally before bringing the program back in.

Pawson said she had a few part-time employees at the animal control facility that also work for other establishments where there have been positive cases confirmed. However, she said, no staff members have tested positive for the virus that she's aware of, but they have been exposed.

“So it’s always a concern for me and I just want the highest level of safety for everybody that works here,” Pawson said.

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