Get Ready for Another Round of Animal Control Politics

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Monday night is another City Council meeting. The big question is will the council bring forth an animal control consolidation ordinance. In other words, will the City join forces and give the county complete control of the animal shelter?  Can they legally without the Mayor’s approval? 

Before we begin, a brief history of the county and animal control.

In 1998 the county contracted with the SPCA until 2003 when allegations of poor management was levied against the SPCA. Before any charges could be verified, the county canceled the contract.

The county disbanded the animal control board because they did nothing, and appointed yet another board. The county then began negotiations with the city in a joint partnership. That never got off the ground for various reasons, including the city requesting an outrageous amount of money.

In 2004 the commissioners looked to Randolph County as their solution to county-wide animal control. They even went as far as hiring a person to transport the animals to Randolph. But, again, the county had to end that arrangement. I was told the animals were housed in a barn under very inhumane conditions. Perhaps some of you old-timers will remember the details.

At one point, the commissioner’s had the hair-brained idea of buying a building in Muncie and using it for an animal shelter and other unknown uses. Fortunately, the county council said NO.

Finally, the county looked South to another neighboring county to handle the animal problem. This time it was Henry County. And that is where we are today.

Personally, after hearing the history of county animal control failures, I am not that hip on their taking over the operation.

However, in 2008, the commissioners, the county and the city of Muncie finally arrived at one of the best and viable plans for animal control. Not just animal control, but animal welfare, too. Partnering with the Human Society.

In September 2008, the turf wars began. The union was concerned they would lose their jobs. Animal activists began a concerted effort to stop the proposal. Others embraced it as a workable solution. Including another group of animal activists, city council member, the mayor, the commissioners, county council and many citizens.

2009 began, and half way through the year, the proposal was voted down. Yes, there were some rough edges, certainly nothing that could not have been resolved.

Some of the other proposals the county offered, was for the city to turn over all assets to the county and pay a yearly fee of $300,000. I can’t say that is much of a bargain, can you?

Here is where it really gets interesting,

City Council cut the animal control budget by $40,000.00. Or one union employee. That began a whirlwind of negative press. When City Council cut this position, the union contract did not allow for any non-union employees to retain their jobs. Basically, the City Council was shutting down the shelter. (Remember, the money was available in the illegal rainy day fund. For those of you unfamiliar with this fund, the City Council added to the budget $300,000+. It is illegal for City Council to add to the budget.)

In December, Mr, Mike Quirk, came before the City Council with a vague description of an animal control proposal the city and county had been working on. The only problem with this plan, was the only city representative involved was the former President of City Council, Alison Quirk. Neither the mayor or the city council were involved in the negotiations. In fact, the city council looked completely taken off guard with this new revelation.

Less than 2 weeks later, Brad Bookout, County Council, which has since resigned his position, brought forth another proposal. One in which he claimed would save the city over $200,000 a year. I think Mr. Bookout was just a tad off. The figure was more like $90,000 or $110,000 less than his calculations.

In my opinion, why would the commissioners and the county want or need to take over the city animal shelter? They have had no success in their prior attempts at it.  With the modernization and consolidation in its final planning stages, why the rush to get this passed?  And can the councils even vote on somthing the mayor has not approved?  And why did the City Council choose to cut from the animal shelter after it had already be downsized?  Is it political? 

So many questions, and no answers.

Now, if you had the chance to read Larry Riley’s article in the newspaper, then you can understand why the city and others should be very cautious when entering into an agreement.

The proposal calls for Muncie to pay $225,000 and the county to chip in $119,000. Remember, the city pays county taxes which will account for a large portion of the $119,000 of county share. In other words, the city pays twice.

If you think there is something rotten in Denmark, hold on. Albany, Selma, Yorktown and other cities will pay in taxes, but receive no services in return. Whoa, Nellie! Say it ain’t so.

In the end of his article he asks a question that has been plaguing us all.

“Why would a county government that has no experience in running an animal shelter facility essentially take over from a city government that has done so for decades?”

Animal Control Merger, Once Again Star Press 3-31-10

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