In June, the City of Jacksonville was presented with the opportunity to purchase the building on Tena Street formerly known as the Klein Animal Shelter.

The shelter closed in January of 2015 after its director was charged with felony animal cruelty and illegal euthanasia. Two other employees were also charged.

Following the Klein shelter closure, the city opened an animal shelter on Woodlawn Avenue and put Sgt. Tonya Harris at the helm.

Harris has been working day in and day out with her staff to find adequate homes for hundreds of dogs and cats. But after an influx of kittens and puppies born this spring and brought to the shelter, many more adoptees are needed.

However, city officials point out that Harris has yet to have to put an animal down. She's working hard to not do that.

So, when the Klein Animal Shelter and the 3.3 acres it sits upon was offered for $125,000, it seemed like a good idea for the city to consider it in order to provide more space for abandoned animals.

According to City Manager Mo Raissi, the city is "still looking at it, and trying not to spend too much of the taxpayers's money." There's a lot of things on the table right now."

One of those "things" is in the initial agreement with the City of Jacksonville, Klein Animal Shelter representatives gave the inclination that if closed, ownership would remit to the city to operate as a shelter.

However, Raissi said this information was never put on the shelter's title, therefore it never happened.

Another "thing" is that the organization is asking an additional $25,000 for the equipment inside the former shelter to create a $150,000 price tag.

City officials agree that the equipment should come with the shelter, because without the cages, etc., it's not an animal shelter.

According to Cheorkee County Chief Appraiser Lee Flowers, the appraised value is currently $63,650 for both the property and building. Although, the market value of the location would typically be more than the appraised value, according to local realtor

Mike McEwen.

McEwen was asked to present the offer to the city, he also offered the shelter to the county.

The topic was mentioned to Cherokee County Judge Chris Davis and not presented to the Cherokee County commissioners for consideration.

"When I approached Chris Davis, he succinctly said that the county hasn’t the funds.  He apparently never ran my proposal by the commissioners because, when Byron Underwood heard my proposal to the City Council, wherein I told the Council that I had already spoken to the county judge, Byron said that Chris had never told him (nor probably the other commissioners)," McEwen said.

Commissioner of Precinct 3 Katherine Pinotti said topics for consideration by the commissioner's court are often first mentioned to Davis to see if he deems them worthy.

However, since the county is currently operating without an animal shelter, Pinotti said she believes the topic needs to be visited by county officials.

Raissi said the city would like to discuss a possible joint-ownership of the former shelter, so that it can house animals from the city and county.

"If they (county officials) would work with us somehow ... " Raissi said.

Raissi said he thinks the facility could be put to good use, but it's a matter of money, right now.

Pinotti agreed on the financial aspects of an agreement.

"I think we should consider any opportunity to provide animal control in the county. Nothing we do will be cheap. However, I am not too enthused about helping them to purchase the Klein facility. $125,000 seems like a bit way too much to pay, considering the land was donated," she said.

According to McEwen, the money received from the sale would go to pay off a bank note with the remainder to be used for spaying and neutering programs.

However, IF the city purchases it, then wouldn't this mean their own money would be coming back to them for this purpose? Why not just donate the location for the payoff of the amount owed?

The county set aside $5,000 in its proposed fiscal year budget to be used for a possible shelter.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Kelly Traylor said the money was rolled over from the previous fiscal year. He added that officials do not know how much money will be needed, but they felt the amount should stay earmarked for a shelter.

Pinotti said: "The $5,000 is still in the budget, as Judge Davis said in court Monday ... 'To offset any arrangement we might have with the city of Jacksonville for animal control.' However, he never mentioned a joint financial venture that would require more money."

Pinotti added that she felt it was "sad for the city manager to be led to believe the county has no money and is not interested in getting more involved to resolve the situation county-wide."

She said she hopes other municipalities in Cherokee County will also consider contributing to the venture for animal control within the county.

"An increase in what we budgeted might be able to be done, but it would depend on several factors, but not impossible I suppose," she noted.

So, should PAWS donate the facility to the city? Probably.

If not, then should the asking price be lowered? Yes.

Should the county seriously consider an agreement with the city in order to prevent stray animals roaming the county? Definitely.

The former animal shelter could easily be converted into the main shelter, leaving the smaller one on Woodlawn Avenue to be used for overflow and/or quarantined animals.

According to city officials, the former shelter includes about 5,000 square feet of space, while the city's shelter on Woodlawn is approximately 1,000 square feet.

The former Klein Animal Shelter should be used for what it was intended – a place for neglected animals to use as a safe haven until they can find "furever" homes!

Let's help restore the image of the shelter by working together!

Jacksonville Progress