One month after pledging $75,000 toward construction of a new animal shelter, the county commission Monday night adopted a budget amendment to appropriate the funds with conditions.
The commission voted 9-4-1 to transfer the $75,000 from the county's fund balance. Those voting in favor were Jack Barton, Anita Puckett, Kevin Robinson, Joe Johnson, Jonathon Norris, Larry Summers, Jerry Adcock, Bradley Hendrix, and Wayne Cantrell. Mason Carter, Betty Atnip, Jeff Barnes, and Jimmy Midgett voted against it. Elmer Ellis, Jr. passed.
Members of the DeKalb Animal Coalition for the Humane Treatment of Animals, who will be running the new shelter, had been pushing for a financial commitment from the county for months. Although the county's appropriation of $75,000 will only fund half the estimated construction costs of $150,000, the City of Smithville has also budgeted $75,000 for the project.
During the August meeting, Third District Commissioner Jack Barton moved that the county allocate the $75,000 but with conditions. "This is a one time donation of $75,000 by DeKalb County earmarked for the construction of an animal shelter by the DeKalb Animal Coalition. This donation is conditional. The county will not be responsible for the hiring and payroll of any employees relating to the animal shelter and will not be responsible for the operation of the shelter or the future funds needed to operate the shelter. Also the Coalition will pick up animals for the county when a request is made from the county mayor's office or the sheriff's department at a fee of $100 and $50 for a dead head if they fail to pick up an animal. That will be paid by the county to the coalition for those animals that are requested by the county mayor's office or the sheriff's department," said Barton.
Barton's motion passed on an 8-5 vote.
Since last month some commissioners have posed new questions including the length of the agreement and if fees to the county will increase over time for animal pickup.
County Attorney Hilton Conger said a memorandum of understanding will be prepared between the county and animal coalition."There was a question that came up at the workshop (last Thursday night) about any time limit on the fee for pickup. We do need a memorandum of understanding with the coalition and I've talked with Sue Puckett, their attorney, and they are agreeable to putting a suggested four year (term) under which they would operate under this arrangement being $100 for pickup and $50 for a dead head. A suggestion was then made at that time (after four years) we (county) would increase that fee by ten percent. There were some other conditions that were mentioned at the time the donation was approved and that was that we wouldn't be responsible for the hiring or payroll of any employees at the animal shelter. We also want to make it clear that this is a one time donation. The coalition is meeting on Thursday night, but Sue told me she had contacted their steering committee and they were agreeable to these terms. With that understanding, I feel comfortable if you want to go ahead and make that budget amendment tonight. Obviously we're not going to hand them a check until they sign our agreement," said County Attorney Hilton Conger.
The shelter is to be built on a four acre site near the solid waste transfer station, behind Tenneco off of Highway 70 east. The property, owned by the Smithville Industrial Development Board, has been deeded to the city, which will enter into a 99 year lease with the Coalition, a 501 (c) 3 charity organization.
The goal of the coalition is for the county to have a permanent and safe location for neglected, abandoned and abused animals; to provide an alternative low-kill policy so these animals receive medical attention, reduce overpopulation, and be cared for until they can be placed in permanent homes.