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January 14, 2014

Animal shelter funds cause stir at meeting

CHEROKEE COUNTY — While Cherokee County Commissioners agreed to release $15,000 in budgeted funds to Klein Animal Shelter, which will help defray costs of surrendered animals, the group took no action Monday on the shelter's additional request of $22,000, saying more detailed information

was needed.

“It's my duty to see how money's being handled,” Precinct 2 Commissioner Steve Norton told shelter executive director Angela Wallace.

In a previous conversation with a shelter employee, “I told her that if you can show us a way y'all  could meet us in the middle, maybe we could come up with a number that would be feasible and work for both of us, rather than just saying, y'all send us what you want and then we'll make a

suggestion.”

The employee described other entities who contributed funds, who “didn't ask for finances, but my point behind that is that it's their money. If Bill McRae wants to give money to them, it's his money, he doesn't have to ask, or see where it goes. But the money we give, it's not our money, it's the taxpayers' money. So it's my business and my responsibility to see how it's being handled. I can't just say, 'hey, let's just find some more money, that's no problem,' that's not how it works. Had she had done as we asked as a court, and provided us (with detailed documentation) … we could meet in the middle.

“My personal recommendation is, until this gets fixed, I wouldn't (disburse) any money ,” Norton said. “Until I get something (that shows Klein's finances), I'm not in. I'm not going to be pushed into it. I'm not going to be threatened into it. That's not how it works.”

The county had a Jan. 15 deadline to ink a contract with Jacksonville-based shelter, whose website describes as helping and “re-homing” more than 6,000 homeless animals since 2005. It has spayed or neutered almost 3,000 of them, according to the site.

Wallace told the court the $15,000 amount covered costs to care for animals brought there, which averages $45 each.

She called the request for additional funding “not a threat,” but “simply a statement of where we stand at this point. We can no longer financially afford to pay that (amount) out of our pocket.”

During the meeting, commissioners suggested shelter officials provide the court with updated lists of expenses to give the court a better idea of what needs they have, and possibly whether to grant additional funding.

They also told Wallace the shelter needs to look into ways to trim its budget, including looking into lower, more affordable surrender feels that everyone could afford and using community service volunteers to do some of the menial labor.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Katherine W. Pinotti assured Wallace that “any small organization has its problems,” which could be fixed.

However, she added, while commissioners “are in agreement that we do and would like to contribute toward animal control … before we can, we'd like to see (better financial transparency), because we have to answer to taxpayers where that money goes.”

During Monday's meeting, commissioners also:

• Purchased through Buy Board – a local government purchasing cooperative created to increase purchasing power of governement entities through use of a customized electronic purchasing system – motorgrader for

Precinct 3;

• Purchased a light bar and radar unit from the City of Alto to place on a county licence and weight truck;

• Approved a lease agreement between the county and Trias Asset Management for Hangar #37 at the Cherokee County Airport;

• Contracted with Envision Payment Solutions of Georgia to handle hot check collections for checks of $100 and less; and,

• Accepted a $3,000 check from the East Texas Communities Foundation to help defray costs of the second annual FitCOUNTY Cherokee Day in the Park event, slated April 5.

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