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Citizens fill meeting room as GBC nears decision on animal services

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City names The Monitor as official newspaper

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GUN BARREL CITY–Gun Barrel City Mayor David Skains opened the Sept. 24 city council meeting to a standing-room only crowd, by announcing the item most were gathered to hear would most likely be tabled to collect more information to make an informed decision. The council was expected to make a decision regarding animal shelter services, but this was tabled to the next council meeting scheduled for Oct. 22.
Humane Society of Cedar Creek Lake (HSCCL) Board President Lanette Ainsworth pointed out the distance to the facility was 4 miles, calling HSCCL “your community shelter,” while the distance to the Henderson County Animal Shelter in Athens is 26 miles.
Ainsworth compared the budgets of the two facilities, HSCCL at $375,000 ($40,000 medical expenses not included in that amount that comes from fundraisers) vs Henderson County Shelter at $372,000. She explained the amount charged to cities and counties by HSCCL was based upon the percentage of the animals that the entity took to the Humane Society, which for Gun Barrel City was 15% in 2018. The amount charged last year was $10,500 with an estimate of 200 animals when in actuality it was closer to 400, Ainsworth told the council. Henderson County Animal Shelter is funded by the county and the City of Athens.
Ainsworth said based on the percentage, the amount should be $56,000 but the amount asked for is $21,355 annually. She pointed to improvements made to the Humane Society facilities and programs over the last three years, specifically their acceptance to the ASPCA Transport program that has already shipped 235 dogs up north where they can be adopted. She questioned the low amount ($4,800) proposed by the Henderson County facility as being only $12 per dog which she said is, “significantly below the variable cost to care for an animal while it awaits adoption,” stating their cost per animal is $115, including medical care.
Ainsworth also said the Humane Society had to supplement their income with fundraisers to be able to give the level of care to the animals, as well as hold adoption events every weekend and make every effort to get animals adopted. Speaking of the importance of funding, she said, “In the shelter world, if you don’t have appropriate funding, that means you don’t provide medical treatment upon intake, you don’t have enough employees to clean properly and you don’t pay your bills on time. The list goes on.” Ainsworth also asked that transportation to the facility be considered when weighing costs.
HSCCL Shelter Director Sharon Banaszak said, “I am here to speak for the animals because they have no voice.” She praised the dedicated staff and volunteers who make sure the animals have, “clean kennels, are fed twice a day and have clean water. They receive appropriate medical care and age-appropriate shots.”
She said the partnership with the ASPCA Transport program took over a year to achieve and that they were one of 100 shelters nationwide, qualified as a source shelter. She expects to transport 500 animals in one year to northern states where there are people waiting for adoptable dogs. “Because of these programs, we have not had to put down an animal this year due to space,” she said. The crowd erupted into applause.
Stacie Flowers explained all HSCCL’s efforts in the community and on social media to increase adoptions and unite lost pets with their owners and said she found no evidence that the Henderson County Shelter had made similar efforts.
Norma Lambert from Chandler spoke to “clear up some statements that were made concerning the Henderson County facility,” with which she had worked. “For 29 years, we developed a policy to take care of animals at that shelter…You might want to educate yourself before you make statements like that.” (There have been many negative statements made on social media regarding the shelter.)
Lambert said The Litter Box Thrift Store in Athens raises money for $20 vouchers for people to spay and neuter their animals.
Friends of the Animals Cedar Creek Lake President Ed Busch addressed his initial comment to Lambert, “You say the philosophy hasn’t changed, but the question has been year after year, what kind of success do you have in placing animals for adoption?” Busch was reminded to address his comments to the council.
He said that Friends of the Animals was working very hard to reduce the animal population problem and so far had performed over 40,000 surgeries. He told the council, ”It is cheaper to take an animal into a shelter that doesn’t do much for adoption and eventually puts them down than to bring an animal back to health, to give them all the shots and everything they need and take them around to get adopted.” Busch called the decision, “black and white,” adding that the council members weren’t put in their seats to be calculators to do everything that is the cheapest, lowest bid.
Council members reiterated that they were considering some new information and Councilman Greg Aiello said he wanted to visit both facilities again and that they had not been provided the adoption rate for the Henderson County Shelter. He said the council would make, “an educated decision.” His statement was echoed by other council members and the mayor. Most of the room emptied out after the council moved on to the next item on the agenda.
The council voted unanimously to name The Monitor as its official newspaper for the 2019-20 year.
In other business, council members:
• adopted Ordinance #O-2019-021 fixing the tax rate at zero for the 2019-20 fiscal year
• authorized and expenditure for the Administration contingency fund not to exceed $10,000 from the 2018-19 budget for records retention processing
• accepted the resignations of Barbara Webster and Monica Damiano from the Parks and Recreation Board
• approved subsidizing a commercial road not to exceed $35,000 for the extension of Cody Austin Road.
• approved the revised EDC budget