muncie animal control

Saturday ramblings: Saturday morning comin’ down – elections and whatnot

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voting imageThe candidate filing has ended for the 2015 primary.  Few surprises to be found.  Davenport dropped his challenge against incumbent Mayor Dennis Tyler.  Nora Powell back on the ballot tossing aside her pen name Nora Powell for her ballot name, Nora Evans Powell.  She appeals to the 7% voter base who chooses the first name on the ballot.    Hey, a girl needs to get a vote where she can.

Three Republicans running in two Republican districts.  This is as exciting an election as one can get, folks.   I didn’t expect any R’s to run for other offices, no one did.   The Republican chair is likely to turn-off prospective candidates as he has done in the past. It’s kind of a waste of money, time, and effort.  This may be lower than last year in regards to voter turnout.  The interest is not there, the candidates are lacking, and creative plans are missing.

I miss the old election campaign stumping, when candidates actually had a platform.  Nevertheless, the city is facing a looming $62 million in debts and we will continue to imagine the possibilities.  I would prefer to have the incumbents continue their place at the table to see creative budgeting in action.  Last time the elected officials faced a mere $3 million deficit, the street lights were scheduled to be shut off, animal shelter closed and 12 employees cut from the payroll. They saved a ton of money by cutting the Mayor’s Office copier and supplies.

Ex-president Sam Marshall wanted to cut Tuhey Pool utilities in his last month of office.  Although, his cuts were asked to be read into the Muncie City Council minutes, it never happened.  Maybe with a new city clerk, one can get that information.  Emails to the office never get a response.  Maybe that will change.  Maybe, maybe, maybe…

I guess it is safe to say, the $2.00 hydrant fee never materialized.  Instead, we saw over $3.00 charge on our water bills.  Local Option Income Tax was not passed at the highest percentage.  It’s still waiting to make a comeback.    Muncie ending for the second time with a sizable operating balance increased the tax levy and the budget.  A line item added to the budget for a newly created position while an employee of Prairie Creek was let go due to budget restraints.  Lack of revenue caused the mowing crew to stop mowing.

Five weeks into 2015, we already earmarked $500,000 spending.  Nobody outside of Muncie really cares how Muncie runs.  Well, until they find $250,000 of Federal bucks to fix up three houses worth pennies on the Federal dollar.  The Mayor said visitors to Central High School would see these homes and perhaps want to invest here.

There is a bright side to all this.  No longer are we bombarded with accusations of affairs, nepotism, cronyism, embezzlement, drug addiction and we finally settled the closing of Ninth & Tenth Street railroad crossings.  Barton lost her hard fought battle when Mayor Tyler took the reins.

Two of the five lawsuits have been settled against the mayor and the city.  Nothing on the Mayor’s appeal to the State of Indiana’s $12,500 fine against Advanced Walls & Ceilings.    The newspaper reported on it along with the $50,000 City Hall landscaping a year after the fact.

I sure hope the economic investment kicks in to generate some revenue soon.  We surely need jobs, living wage jobs.

Tomorrow is another day…stay tuned.

Muncie Animal Control – What’s It All About Anyway?

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So much talk about how this new ordinance is the best plan for animal control.  Consolidating of both city and county, streamlining government and saving taxpayer’s money.  And it’s for the animals.

Is it really the best plan ever? 

 Well, my curiosity was aroused after perusing an online story chat about the pitfalls of Animal Control and how the county MUST be in control.  So, I asked, why is this plan better than the others?  I was met with some hostility by the supporters but all the supporters agreed this was the best plan for us.

How can a county which has had many failed attempts at animal control be so positive this one will succeed?  Just where will the money come from to fund this “absolutely the best plan ever”?  After explaining my concerns about the county’s finances and lack of any animal control experience, I was told “Ya don’t know nuttin”.  

They were right.  So, I did a little research. 

My first stop was the Delaware County Humane Society Proposal.  41 pages covering everything from cost savings, plans for a campus environment conducive for animal adoptions, funding, hiring, ordinances and plans for future expansion.  I was impressed.  It was like a dream come true.  Could Delaware County finally solve the 25-year-old problem of animal control?  Alas, this ordinance was struck down after an organized effort to destroy the plan.  Sometimes we can be our own worse enemy.

Next stop was the elusive plan everyone talked about, nobody ever saw.  This was the plan which sat on the Mayor’s desk for months.  It has been dubbed the Dunnuck-Beach Proposal.  Although, the proposal has some merit, it lacks long-term planning.  How the revenue monies were figured is anybody’s guess. 

The Bookout Plan which has now become the animal control ordinance soon followed.  Echoing many of the same ideas as the Dunnuck-Beach proposal, it also lacked a comprehensive long-term plan. 

Both the Dunnuck-Beach and Bookout plans are relying on other cities and towns to enter in for a nominal fee.  So far, none are willing to bite.  Other additional revenues consist of fines, fees, donations and grants.  Neither proposal has put any dollar amount, estimated or true to the fines or fees, so there will be no guarantee this will be substantial income.

In fact, the council passed the Bookout plan as the ordinance without any dollars set for fees or fines.  The salaries were included, though.  Salaries are always considered separate ordinances, so why were they included?  Kind of messed up if you ask me.

Also not included were any animal control ordinances and no board in place.  Like the cart before the horse.

We come to the Mayor’s Animal Control Proposal.  Included in the proposal was the agreement between the city and the county, budget and updated ordinances to include county-wide animal control.

The proposals are listed at the end of this blog.

The county is proposing the city turn over all its assets, all control of any say in the operation of the shelter and pay an additional fee on top of it.  I believe if the county wants the assets and control, it should do so by completely funding it from the general fund like all county services (exception Communication Center).  The county is in poor financial shape and needs animal control.  They can not possibly fund it, so they will do what is basically a take over.  With City Council’s blessings, of course.

I have been told the county has made concessions.  Then I asked, “How can the county make concessions when they have nothing to concede?”  No shelter, no equipment, one employee and no history of experienced animal control.  They have nothing really to offer.

Neither Commissioner Dunnuck or County Attorney Mike Quirk could come to any agreement on how to handle the ponies which were killed.  One advised the owner to seek an attorney, the other believe it should be turned into the County insurance.  This is another example of the inexperience the county has to offer the city.

The Muncie Star Press ran an article on June 20, 2010, about two Labs picked up by a citizen,  She called the city and was told it was the responsibility of the county.  City does not offer this service to county areas.  The county said unless the animals were hurt or sick they would not pick up the dogs.  After a little government shuffling, the county picked the animals up and transported to Henry County Animal Shelter.  So, again, something as simple as a dog pick up was botched.

Please take a few minutes to read the proposals.  If you believe the Bookout proposal is the best, do nothing,  If you think Muncie should retain control, please contact any member of Muncie City Council, Delaware County Commissioners or the Mayor.

DCHS proposal  (Note: This is a large PDF document, please be patient while it loads)

Dunnuck-Beach proposal

Bookout Animal Control

Muncie_Animal_Shelter_Draft_ Agreement



More information can be found at Citizens of Delaware County for Property Tax Repeal

Muncie City Council:

Alison Quirk: 765-288-5319
Mike King: 765-282-3709
Linda Gregory: 765-286-2925
Sam Marshall: 765-288-0478
Brad Polk: 765-288-0571
Mark Conatser: 765-744-8862
Jerry Dishman: 765-215-9747
Mary Jo Barton: 765-289-9494
Monte Murphy: 765-286-4154 or 765-288-0516

Delaware County Commissioners

Larry Bledsoe  765-747-7730

Todd Donati  7-65-747-7730

Don Dunnuck  765-747-7730

City of Muncie

Mayor Sharon McShurley  765-747-4845

Ownership of Animal Control Is Now In The Hands Of The County

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City council passed the animal control ordinance 6-3. Who voted no? Linda, Mark and Brad.

Linda brought up some interesting questions, like why were the salaries included in the ordinance. From what I can tell, the ordinance mirrors Bookout’s proposal word for word. I can’t wait to get my hands on the ordinance.

For some reason City Council feels obligated to favor a person from Albany, Indiana to govern what goes on in the city. Do we go to Yorktown and tell their officials how to run their city? No. Yet, she has been pleading before City Council for the longest time. In fact, Albany will not even been included in this animal control ordinance.

The whole thing is fishy. From the moment Mike Quirk spoke at City Council last December and informed the council Alison Quirk was in meetings with the County on animal control. Just Mrs. Quirk. Not the Mayor and not City Council. Within a few weeks there was a proposal on the table. Flawed from the beginning, using outdated budget figures.

Let’s see how this plays out. Let’s watch who is appointed to the board and who is hired. Let’s see how well the county can run animal control. For City Council’s sake, it better succeed.

City Council just gave away the city’s assets, double taxed the city taxpayers, and signed a ordinace which may or may not be legal.   All because of the insane budget cut of $40,000.

Mike King, Alison Quirk, Monty Murphy, Jerry Dishman, Mary Jo Barton and Sam Marshall. Just who do they serve?

Watch for udpate…

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

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue – Animal Control in the 21st Century

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A new animal control proposal is fresh off the press. With not having the proposal in front of me, I can only go by the Star Press article published today. I have a sneaking suspicion it is very similar to the proposal from last summer. Hence the title, something old, new, borrowed and blue.

Mike Quirk, counsel for the commissioners, came before city council at the December meeting with an animal control plan in his head. Unfortunately, he wasn’t very knowledgeable and one wondered why he had even asked to speak. 

 Glad he did, the citizens and the city council learned something new that night.   It appeared the county was in the planning stages with the city, but the only person included for the talks was President Alison Quirk. Later we found that President Quirk had met with the county council to “discuss” the new animal control. Well, the Mayor wasn’t invited and neither were the city council members. I find that odd.  In fact, by the look on our elected official’s faces, this was the first they heard of it.

How could President Quirk and Brad Bookout take a decades old problem called animal control and devise a proposal so quickly? In my opinion it is simple. Just borrow from the old proposal introduced last summer and call it new. Kind of like the marketing tools used to sell products. New and Improved.

Below is a summary from the article and my two cents.

Someone feel free to correct my math. Muncie’s budget is $316,000. Brad Bookout proposes city costs would be $225,000. This doesn’t add up to $200,000 savings for the city as Mr. Bookout said. More like $91,000.

The county has budgeted $75,000 and $25,000 respectively for 2010. Or a ball park figure of $100,000. Bookout proposes county’s share would be $149,000.

The total cost for city/county would be $373,000.

In addition it would be co-funded (is that a word) with the same outside sources, which brings us right back to the problem of people arguing against the “dog tax”.

It looks to me like we just re-invented the wheel. This is not some outstanding new revelation of animal control; it is just the recycled proposal from last summer. This should have been adopted, since it was the best plan.

Mr. Bookout layed out how the appointments would be distributed.   Two city council, two county council , one from the mayor, one from the commissioners and one from the sheriff.  We know how that will be. Polk, Conaster or Gregory nominates someone and three yeas and six nays from the city council.  Then of course we have the hiring of the executive director who is only allowed a 5 year term.  You know, “to prevent the job from becoming a political reward”.  (They talk a good game, huh?)  I fear cynicism will soon overtake my soul, mind and body.  The concern on political rewards is an outstanding gesture on their part.

One wonders about the effectiveness or purpose of the board. With a proposed budget of less than $400,000, 7 board members to oversee such a small budget/operations amazed me. The communications board was just disbanded and it was responsible for a $2 million+ budget and a large operation. The sheriff adds $29,000 for animal control and he can make an appointment.  The city contributes over a million dollars to 911 and not even allowed to have a say.  No political rewards allowed.

If the city updated the ordinances to reflect current costs and fees, and if the union continued to work with the city and if we had all the people who offered to volunteer keep their promises, what type of animal control would we see?

Don’t get me wrong. I am all for more humane, effective and efficient animal control, this proposal really needs to be looked over with a fine tooth comb.

One more thing to ponder: The County just barely skimmed through a financial crisis. Their bond rating dropped from AAA to A.  If the county continues on the same spending spree as in 2009, what do you think will happen come 2010?

If we have the same people in office controlling the purse strings, and once again the county ends in the red and has no place to borrow, it will be the citizens picking up the slack in increased fees and taxes.

And even if this sounds like a marvelous idea, and Muncie animal control is less than desirable, we can’t just enter into to any agreement which will put us in the financial “dog house”.

Now is the time to start practicing fiscal responsibility. We have spent so many years working from the moment and not looking at the consequences a year or two down the road. We have paid dearly. Just look at what happened when the animal shelter became a political appointment decades ago.

Read the full article. Available for seven days on-line. (12-27-09)