Tribune-Courier News Editor
UPDATE: On Tuesday, a vote by the fiscal court concerning a potential lease of the Humane Society's property on U.S. Hwy. 68 ended in a 2-2 deadlock. The court took no action on the proposed 10-year contract. Citing a reduced cost, Commissioner Bob Gold asked the court to explore the option of expanding the county's current facility on Benton-Briensburg Road.
After hearing the court's decision, Dr. Bert Johnson, President of the Marshall County Humane Society, said he was disappointed in the outcome. Johnson said the Humane Society was unable to keep its fees as low as the county-run facility and would have to cease current operations by year end.
"We can't compete with their adoption fees," Johnson said. "We're losing out on donations and adoptions [to the county animal shelter]. We will try to get through the summer."
Johnson said the Humane Society receives the bulk of its funding from monetary and item donations. It also generates operating costs through adoption fees. Currently, the county animal shelter charges $15 for adoptions, as opposed to the Humane Society's $60. Johnson said the cost was a determining factor for many prospective pet owners.
BENTON – The Marshall County Fiscal Court met with members of the Marshall County Humane Society Friday to discuss the possibility of the county leasing the organization’s facility. The two sides are expected to meet again today at the court’s regular monthly meeting to continue talks.
Citing potential property acquisition, the two groups met behind closed doors in executive session. Many details concerning the lease are not available as public record as of presstime.
“We have been discussing with the contingent from the Humane Society the possibility, if the court sees fit, to lease their facility,” said Judge Executive Mike Miller Friday. “Some things will have to be worked out. I’ve got some numbers.”
On Monday, Miller said he was reviewing operating costs between the Humane Society’s current operation on U.S. Hwy 68 in Aurora and the Marshall County Animal Shelter on Benton-Briensburg Road.
The county’s shelter has made noticeable strides in reducing the number of euthanized animals and increasing pet adoptions. It has also secured grant funding to expand the current site. The shelter currently has two paid employees, Misti Wagner and Lexie Lamb, and receives the bulk of its funding from the county.
The Humane Society of Marshall County meanwhile maintains a larger facility, but operates off donations, charity funding and volunteers.
In addition to funding, one major difference to the two groups is euthanization. Despite its recent reduction, the county still euthanizes animals when necessary. The Humane Society operates strictly as a no-kill facility. Details have not been released if county animals housed at the Hwy. 68 building would still be subject to euthanization, or if the county would be contractually obligated to follow the Humane Society’s guidelines.
Questions also remain if the combined facilities would require additional paid county employees to supervise operations, or if volunteers would maintain access to county property. An estimate of the increased costs of operating two facilities has not been discussed in open court.
On Friday, attorney Tom Blankenship, representing the Humane Society, said the group is unable to comment on much of the proposal pending negotiations with the court.
“The current discussion has been the county leasing our facility to use as they see fit,” Blankenship said. “There are a lot of details to be worked out.”
The lease opportunity comes after months of effort to expand and improve the current facility. There were initial plans for a surgical suite and Miller confirmed the county had previously approached all local veterinarians about assisting with services at the shelter. Miller said Dr. Paul Jaco, Dr. Bob McCrory and Dr. Daria Koym responded.
The court is set to discuss the issue further at its regular meeting today at 9:30 a.m. at the courthouse. Those talks will likely continue behind closed doors.