Anyone attending recent Marshall County Fiscal Court meetings– or watching them on Mediacom cable or online at www.tribunecourier.com– has to be wondering if the welfare of pets in need of a home are really an issue at all.
Going back to the beginning, we’ll skip the somewhat irrelevant history why the Humane Society originally parted. The impetus for the exodus is unpleasant, but it also has nothing to do with the current work done by the staff at the Marshall County Animal Shelter which is, to say the least, nothing short of miracle working. Euthanizations are way down, adoptions are way up. And, maybe more importantly, pets are being paired up with owners who are looking for them, and not just the first fluffy thing that catches their eye.
So instead of going back to the fallout between the county and the Humane Society a decade ago, let’s go back just a couple months. Back to when, due to the county’s improvement at the taxpayer funded shelter, the Humane Society decided it may be best to merge the two. A proposal was drawn up which would have provided the county with a state-of-the-art facility for relatively little money.
There were reports of operating the two facilities as cheaply as operating the one at refuse center, if the county applied the expected annual savings achieved by the shelter’s current employees. That’s being fairly liberal with the numbers. Even bumping the savings up to $40,000, it still wouldn’t be enough to cover expenses and salaries to operate the Humane Society facility as it is currently in tandem with the county’s operation.
There was, however, the option of incurring the minimal cost of upkeep to the county’s facility while moving its actual operations out to the Humane Society’s location on U.S. Hwy 68.
Contrary to reports, the facility wouldn’t exactly be free. The current animal shelter is already on county property. It wouldn’t be a surplus property, so the county would still incur costs of maintaining it. It’s also on the same campus as the county’s refuse center, which allows for relatively free inmate labor to be used. A move across the county would prove a significant hurdle in that regard, if not completely eliminating the ability to use the workers there.
So, if the county was going to stay within its current budget, it meant picking up shop and moving into a facility it would have for a limited time or spending the surplus so the current facility would meet its needs.
Two court members have said they think it’s the most fiscally responsible thing to spend taxpayer funds on a building taxpayers will own. Two other members said they support spending the money on a site that meets the current needs. Commissioner Misti Drew, likewise, has said it’s a matter of supporting the Humane Society’s interest in caring for animals.
The court voted once on merging county operations with the Humane Society. At 2-2, no action was taken. Public outcry led to a second vote with a similar outcome.
Last week, the court voted on an alternate plan proposed by Commissioner Bob Gold, which would use the excess funds to expand the current shelter facility to accommodate extra animals if the Humane Society does close its doors later this year. Again, it ended in a 2-2 deadlock.
“I feel like as long as we continue to have two different entities in one community doing the same thing, it’s not good for the taxpayers,” Drew said after voting against adding onto the county’s operation. Drew has been a leading voice in the call for the county to take over the operation. “I don’t think it’s good for the animals. They’re strictly donation based and we’re taxpayer funded. Any time you have two organizations with the same mission trying to do the same thing in a small community like this, it’s a lose-lose. Building a building is not really the issue, it’s coming together as two organizations and working together to do one mission.”
If that’s the issue, why shoulder taxpayers with an additional burden? Why move facilities at all? If the goal is simply more cooperation between the Humane Society and the Animal Shelter, great. I find it hard to believe the shelter would turn away any volunteer help offered or donations made.
The shelter is funded by tax dollars, but they’re local dollars– not the infinite federal kind. The fiscal court has a duty to be responsible with taxpayer funds. It would be nice if they could provide for the welfare of every interest in this county, but at some point the dollars make cents. And spending them has to make sense.