City, county tell Orris, ‘Thanks, but no’ on animal shelter

The city will determine what can be done to improve the current animal shelter.

The Jefferson city council and the Greene County supervisors thanked volunteer Don Orris for the countless hours he spent planning for a county-wide animal shelter, but they declined to commit funds to operate the shelter should it be built.

The proposed new shelter, for which Greene County Development Corporation had already offered a site, will not be built. Orris had volunteered to head an effort to raise $1.2 million for construction of the facility, but only after he was assured the county and city would provide an estimated $161,000 annually in operating costs.

Orris had set the end of January as a deadline so that he could meet deadlines for local grant applications as part of his fundraising.

The city council and supervisors met for an hour a week ago asking questions about the proposal. They met again Monday (Jan. 30) for less than 25 minutes. It was evident at the start of the meeting that neither group would agree to the operating expenses.

County supervisors board chair John Muir said the county is not interested in doing anything on its own and not interested in owning the new facility. County ownership had been proposed to reinforce that it would be a county-wide facility. “We recognize we still have animals to deal with. We want to be part of something in some form so we know we have a place to take animals,” Muir said, but added that he was speaking only for the rural portions of the county, not towns aside from Jefferson.

Jefferson mayor Craig Berry said he had polled the council members via email and it was their consensus that the operating costs were too high. He said the council preferred to do something with the existing facility, whether that be in partnership with the county or done solely by the city.

Orris spoke at the meeting, saying that without support for the annual budget, his plan is not functionable. “The plan was my plan. I tried to solve the (animal control) problem for all entities. The problem is not an easy problem. I think the solution involves both your groups. I think it’s going to be difficult to solve the animal control problem…. To do it right, you need the entire county’s support. It’s going to be hard for the city to afford a proper facility that will last a long time without the county’s support,” Orris said.

“If you go your separate ways, whether you like it or not, sooner or later the state’s going to come inspect your facility, and if it doesn’t meet the standards that are there, they’ll close you down,” he said. “I think as a county we can solve it. As an individual city, we’re going to have a lot of trouble solving it.”

Orris thanked Dave Destival for help with drafting the design, GCDC for the offer of the site, all the animal shelter people he talked with across Iowa, and the steering committee – Dawn Rudolph, Dave Sloan, Steve Haupert and Mike Palmer.

Berry suggested that “Plan B” is to review the current shelter to see what changes can be made, what can be cleaned up and what can be improved. The city will review expenses and revenue “and just see what happens.”

Rudolph suggested the committee ask a state inspector to come and suggest what is needed at the existing shelter. As an alternative, the city will request copies of the past several years’ inspections.

Orris had said at previous meetings that the state inspectors realize the building is deficient, but signed off on the inspections because they knew the volunteers running the shelter were doing the best they could.


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