August 25, 2021
By: Dwayne Page
Five months after the DeKalb Animal Coalition went to court trying to prevent the City of Smithville from intervening in the operation of the animal shelter, the case has been dismissed.
The order was signed Monday, August 23 by Chancellor Ronald Thurman.
It was clear the case would be dropped after the Coalition and City agreed to terms of an amended lease and contract over the operation of the animal shelter which was approved and signed by parties for both sides earlier this month.
“All issues joined for trial have been amicably resolved by Plaintiff (Coalition) and Defendant (City) by virtue of the parties having entered into an Amended Lease and Contract under date of August 10, 2021. It is also unnecessary to add DeKalb County as a necessary and indispensable party. It is therefore ordered that the action filed by the Plaintiff(Coalition) against Defendants City of Smithville and DeKalb County, is hereby dismissed as to both Defendants,” according to the order.
In March the Chancellor issued a temporary restraining order pending a final hearing to keep the City of Smithville from taking over the operation of the animal shelter which was and remains under the control of the DeKalb Coalition for Humane Treatment of Animals, INC.
The Coalition, represented by attorney Sarah Cripps, sought to make the temporary restraining order against the city permanent and for the Chancellor to construe and interpret provisions of both the Coalition’s lease and contract with the City over the operation of the animal shelter as well as the Coalition’s memorandum of understanding with the County.
Cripps was granted the temporary injunction, later amended to a temporary restraining order, after the Smithville Aldermen voted unanimously on March 1 to terminate the city’s 99 year lease with the Coalition and for the city to assume total control of the animal shelter. The mayor and aldermen claimed that the Coalition, which since 2017 has contracted with the city to manage and oversee the facility, had breached its agreement. City officials contended that the city’s own employees who worked there actually managed the day to day operation of the shelter. In a separate move, the aldermen voted 4 to 1 on March 1 to again allow the shelter to accept animals from outside the city but within the county. Something the Coalition had been fighting for since the aldermen issued the ban during a special meeting on October 29, 2020
Chancellor Thurman said in March that while the city had the right to void the contract it could not unilaterally declare a breach by the coalition without a ruling from the court.
Although the county was not a party to this action, Chancellor Thurman said it needed to be because the final outcome could have affected the county. He asked that the county join the case.
Since then the city and coalition renewed talks and crafted an amended agreement to the original lease and contract clarifying more fully the intent and purpose of the documents as well as the specific duties and obligations of the coalition and the city.
While the city will have no control over the operation of the shelter under the amended lease and contract it will have some obligations to the coalition. The city will contribute (pay) to the coalition a base annual sum of $100,000 for the first full year in quarterly installments but the overall payment will increase by $1,000 per year for the next fifteen years.
No shelter employee will be funded or employed by the city. The coalition will be solely responsible for the staffing, management, and operation of the shelter including hiring and termination of employees and will pay all associated costs of their employment including salaries, uniforms, benefit packages, etc.
The city will turn over to the coalition the certificate of title to the animal transport vehicle. Going forward, the coalition will be solely responsible for all maintenance and costs of insurance coverage on the vehicle. The purchase of any subsequent animal transport vehicle will be the responsibility of the coalition.
The city will be responsible for any and all maintenance and repairs to the exterior of the animal shelter building and must continue to insure it with a reputable company in an amount sufficient to replace the structure if destroyed by natural disaster, fire, flood, etc. and shall maintain comprehensive general liability and casualty insurance on the premises. If destroyed, the city will be obligated to rebuild the shelter. It will be up to the coalition to maintain and make repairs to the interior of the shelter and to maintain a policy of comprehensive general liability and casualty insurance for the inside.
The coalition will also pay all recurring monthly utilities as well as lawn care at the shelter and dog park.
As for the dog park, which is located on the shelter premises and was funded by a grant, the city will be responsible for making all repairs but the coalition will be in charge of the dog park’s day to day operation, management, and staffing.
Should the city and coalition have a future disagreement or dispute concerning any issues that may develop from the original lease and contract or from this amended lease and contract, the parties will submit their disagreement to mediation conducted by Rule 31 Listed Mediator, selected by both parties before either shall be permitted to seek relief from any court of competent jurisdiction. Further, each party shall be responsible for paying fully one half of all costs incurred during the mediation process.