County supes lobbied on behalf of animal shelter

Discussion of new animal shelter of Jeff council agenda for Tuesday

“Progressive towns have progressive, humane animal facilities,” Adrienne Smith of Jefferson told the county supervisors Thursday morning in advocating for a new animal shelter.

Smith was an active volunteer with the People for Animal Welfare Society (P.A.W.S.) until a year ago, and she prefaced her comments with a disclaimer that she was not speaking on that group’s behalf. Her many years as a P.A.W.S. volunteer gives her the advantage of knowing why a new facility is needed, she said.

She said Greene County Development Corporation’s gift of land is affirmation that that group agrees a shelter is needed. She called Don Orris, who is spearheading the effort and has offered to lead a fundraising campaign, “the most capable person for the job of getting a new shelter.”

“We are trying to attract new people and families and have people see Jefferson as a shining example of what a town should look like. We have the swimming pool, golf course, rec center, bike trail, Mahanay tower, churches, schools, and yes, even a casino,” she said. “But we don’t have a good animal facility, and many families take that into account when they are judging a community.”

She also said many people understand the importance of fostering a spirit of community service and that it’s important for children to learn compassion, empathy and responsibility. “I don’t know of any better way for a child to pick up these traits than volunteering and working with animals,” she said. She added that many people have declined to volunteer at the current shelter because of its dismal state.

Orris met with the supervisors and the Jefferson city council last month to share plans for a new county-wide animal shelter. The $1.2 million shelter would be located in Jefferson northeast of the St Joseph Cemetery. Orris offered to run a capital campaign but made it clear that he would do that only after the city and county came to an agreement on ownership and annual operational funding estimated at $161,000. That cost includes a fulltime animal control officer at a cost of $54,000 a year including employee benefits.

Smith encouraged the supervisors not to turn down the offer of property from GCDC and the hours of work Orris has already put in. “I don’t think this county will get such an offer again,” she said.

Board chair John Muir said Orris’s volunteer effort is “impressive.” “What comes first, the horse or the cart?” Muir said, and sent a mixed message about committing operational funds before capital funds are raised, as Orris asked.

“If Don is successful, we still have work to do ironing out how the ownership would be with the city. I think that’s something we have to work hard on ironing out because that gives Don more useful tools to go out and try and campaign for funds,” Muir said. “If he’s successful in raising that kind of money, it should send a big message to us saying the community is really behind it totally, willing to invest in it. We have to find some way to come to a solution.”

Smith also told the supervisors that one “community leader” had told her “a .22 would solve the (animal control) problem.” “That’s ridiculous. It’s unacceptable for communities,” Smith said.

“That’s not in the mindset of a lot of us,” Muir reassured her. “Luckily that’s not the common attitude.”

The Jefferson city council will discuss the animal shelter at its Jan. 10 meeting. Orris has been asked to be there to answer questions. Last month when Orris talked with the city council he did not suggest a deadline for a decision on operating costs. When he met with the supervisors the following week, he asked that a decision be made about operating costs by the end of January.

Orris has suggested the two entities split operating costs based on the origins of the animals (city of Jefferson or elsewhere), with neither ever paying more than 60 percent.

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