Supervisors hear proposal for animal shelter

Don Orris, who was drafted to lead the effort to build a new animal shelter, got the same reaction when he presented information to the county supervisors Monday as when he presented to the Jefferson city council last week. Elected officials agree there’s a need, but neither group wants to be the first to commit money to it.

Conceptual drawing prepared by Waggoner-Wineinger Architects.

Orris has spent countless hours researching animal shelters and has preliminary plans and a cost estimate of $1.2 million for construction. He has offered to chair a fundraising effort to raise that amount, but only if the county and the city of Jefferson agree to cover operational expenses going forward. His budget calls for about $161,500 operating costs annually, although he says that is a “worst case” budget with no revenue from licensing, surrender fees or fines.

He proposes that at the outset, the county pay 46 percent, $66,218, and the city pay 54 percent, $77,734, based on the percentage of animals coming from the city of Jefferson or elsewhere.

Supervisor Dawn Rudolph is on the steering committee for the shelter. She says the current facility “is going to fall in a heap.” “Whether it’s this facility or something else, we need some sort of facility in our county. That’s the bottom line,” she said.

In discussion after Orris’ presentation, board chair John Muir noted that construction wouldn’t require any tax dollars and that taxpayers are already spending money on animal control without knowing it.

Sheriff Steve Haupert is also a member of the steering committee. He has suggested that the county could earmark 10 percent of what Scranton, Churdan, Grand Junction, Rippey and Paton pay the sheriff’s office for law enforcement for the animal control officer. Wages for that position are part of Orris’ operational budget.

Haupert is retiring at the end of the year. Sheriff-elect Jack Williams disagrees. Earlier in the meeting he told the supervisors he is considering increasing the fee for service by 10 percent in the county towns, and he noted that Churdan and Grand Junction have city employees do animal control. Scranton is the only town that pays an additional fee specifically for animal control.

According to Willliams before the presentation, the sheriff’s office should respond only to calls of dog bites and vicious dogs, not roaming or barking dogs. “I’d just as soon be without that waste of time,” he said.

After Orris’ presentation Williams said he doesn’t think one animal control officer would be enough because of the 24/7 aspect of the job. He said that since the other cities don’t pay the sheriff’s office for animal control, “I’m not really in agreeance with taking 10 percent of the pay that’s supposed to be going to us for providing true law enforcement to pay for animal control,” Williams said. “I don’t see a need to take it out of the sheriff’s budget.”

Auditor Jane Heun asked why the county would own the shelter rather than the city. Orris answered that the committee wanted to reinforce the perception of it as a countywide facility. “I can’t honestly tell you of any county that owns an animal control facility. It must work in other places that the county just agrees to pay so much per year,” Heun said.

Supervisor Guy Richardson repeated what Muir said about the cost being similar to what is already being spent. He said “the dynamics of an animal control officer” would need to be figured out, and that he didn’t see coming to agreement with the city of Jefferson on cost sharing of operations to be “insurmountable.” “I don’t think it’s paramount whether the county owns it or not. If the two boards come to that conclusion, that’s fine,” he said.

Orris said he would like the supervisors and the Jefferson city council to meet together and come to agreement by the end of January.

 

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