Humane Society asking county for help

Published 8:01 pm Friday, September 30, 2011

As far as the Bainbridge-Decatur County Humane Society is concerned, the Decatur County Board of Commissioners is “in the doghouse.”

The Humane Society is upset with the county, because the non-profit organization says it is shirking its responsibility to help pay for the upkeep of the animal shelter.

Tuesday, Pam Immendorf, the past president of the local Humane Society, spoke at the meeting of the Board of Commissioners, saying, “The county ought to pay its share to maintain the facility for the betterment of our community.”

Immendorf said, in an interview Thursday, that the Humane Society requested for the county to pay $60,000 a year to help pay for the operation of the shelter. However, the county instead budgeted $40,000 a year, a figure that Immendorf says is far too low.

Because neither the City of Bainbridge nor the Decatur County Board of Commissioners operates a shelter, both government entities contract with the Humane Society to house animals that are collected by animal control law enforcement officers. Immendorf said the Humane Society’s contract with the city is for a flat rate of $80,000 per year, while the county has paid on a per-animal basis (approximately $15 per animal-per day, plus other expenses).

She said the county paid slightly more than $50,000 last year, under the per-animal contract.

“It seems as though the county has decided they can get away with paying a lot less if they just don’t bring in a lot of animals to the shelter,” she said. “But those animals that are left outdoors are breeding and just exacerbating the problem. The county has to understand that, under state law, cities and counties are required to provide for animal control.”

Immendorf said the county told the Humane Society that the $20,000 difference could be made up by utilizing prison inmate labor. But Immendorf said there are multiple problems with that solution.

“Those inmates don’t want to be there and there’s no incentive for them to perform the tasks we give them,” she said. “It slows our employees down, because of the level of supervision that we have to provide. We were also suggested that we could help mentor the inmates, but our staff has neither the time nor the qualification to mentor inmates.”

Immendorf said the Humane Society recommended the flat $60,000-a-year contract on Aug. 22, but had not heard anything from the county since that date, which was why she spoke publicly at Tuesday’s meeting.

Thursday, County Chairman Dr. David C. “Butch” Mosely said the two sides were still in negotation but he was confident a compromise could be reached.

“Hopefully we can meet somewhere in between the $40,000 and the $60,000 number,” he said. “I hope we can arrive at a solution where everyone is happy. We know that they need help. I’m an animal owner and an animal lover myself, and I realize what they’re up against.”

County Administrator Tom Patton said a “work committee” of County Vice Chairman C.T. Stafford and Commissioner Frank Loeffler was formed, to help work out the conflict between the Humane Society and county. Stafford said Thursday that the committee was working hard to come up with an answer.

“A lot of it comes down to our responsibility to the taxpayers,” he said. “We have to balance limited resources, among a whole host of services that we have to provide. We are hopeful that we can go back to the bargaining table and work this out.”

Mosely said he is confident that the Board of Commissioners will be able to act on the issue at the next meeting Tuesday, Oct. 11. If a change is necessary to the $40,000 budgeted line item, a budget amendment will be required and will have to be passed in the public meeting by a majority of the board.

“Hopefully everybody will be happy,” he said. “I certainly don’t have any hard feelings toward (the Humane Society) at all. I know that they’re a not-for-profit organization and a lot of what they do is a labor of love.

“I do think that the county should do its fair share. There just may be some disagreement over what that fair share is.”