Budget Committee Action – CARE To Take Over Animal Shelter Operations

With budget season under way, the Jefferson County Budget Committee met for their regular voting meeting on Monday evening, March 13, 2018 at the Historic Jefferson County Courthouse. The committee approved several budget amendments on both the County and School side largely as a part of regular housekeeping. The majority of the discussion centered around a potential change in management for the County Animal Shelter.

At the start of Monday’s meeting, the Jefferson County Humane Society was the management group that was overseeing the County Animal Shelter but by the close of the meeting that had changed. CARE, a 501c3 non profit organization with ties to the original Humane Society Board made a presentation to the Budget Committee that included the request of a County contribution for the current fiscal year of $103,000. For that contribution, CARE would assume management of the County Animal Shelter and return it to the open intake shelter that it had been operating as before recent changes halted the open intake policy.

Information from the current Humane Society Board indicated the intent to continue as a pay for surrender shelter, which would include animal that are taken in from the County Animal Control. Records indicated that more than 800 animals were brought in by Animal Control to the County shelter last year and that number would likely increase should citizens be charged to surrender their animals. With the estimated cost of intake per Animal Control delivery to the shelter reportedly hovering in excess of $125 per animal, Animal Control Oversight Board Chairman Randy Bales stated his concern that costs would escalate out of control. He also noted that tax payer funding pays for the contribution to run the County Animal Shelter and those same citizens would be charged additionally to surrender an animal. While Bales was careful to say that his opinion did not speak for the Board as a whole, as they have not voted on a recommendation, but that his concern is for the future of the shelter and doing what works best for Jefferson County.

Committee Member McGraw, who also sits on the ACOB, cushioned the recent upheaval at the shelter as two groups that have a fundamental difference of opinion but both with the best interest of the animals at heart. He agreed with Bales’ contention that CARE best fits the needs of Jefferson County. Budget Committee Chairman Scarlett made a motion to fund CARE at $81,000 for the current fiscal year with $35,000 of that coming from funds that were to go the Humane Society but were recently frozen by the County Commission for lack of what was viewed as agreement compliance. Scarlett was 2nd by Committee Member Carmichael. Committee Member Tucker offered an amendment to increase the amount to $103,000. The Scarlett/Carmichael motion did not include funds for a vehicle and questioned the County purchasing a vehicle for a 501c3. Tucker, who was 2nd by Committee Member Huffaker, stated that the County did not have to purchase the vehicle, only provide funds to be used as necessary. The amendment failed in a tie vote and the unamended motion passed unanimously. Scarlett offered a second motion that requested that the Mayor’s office to begin the legal process to take possession of the shelter. That motion was 2nd by Solomon and also found Committee approval. Budget Chair Scarlett requested that Mayor Palmieri pursue County surplus vehicles and identify any that might be useful to the shelter as it begins the transition from the Jefferson County Humane Society to CARE.

The issue, along with County and School Budget amendments will come before the full body at their regular voting meeting.

Source: K. Depew, News Director