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Society ready to fight cuts

Contract up for review

POSTED: December 16, 2009 4:00 a.m.

Judging by the e-mails circulating among volunteers, the Dawson County Board of Commissioners should expect a fight when the local humane society’s contract comes up for review Thursday.

  

“We still need to have a presence at the BOC meeting on Thursday evening to show that there are many supporters that care about what happens to our humane society,” wrote Candy Adams, humane society president.

  

A proposed 2010 contract presented to the society earlier this month calls for it to receive $12,500 each month from the county, for a total of $150,000 on the year.

  

The county would pay an additional fee of $100 for each dog or cat delivered by animal control officers that exceeds 150 animals per month.

  

The contract is about $30,000 less than the county paid in 2009, which County Manager Kevin Tanner said should not have come as a surprise.

  

“It’s the same amount we told them we would be paying in 2010 when we discussed our budget earlier this year,” he said.

  

Humane society staff and volunteers say the county’s proposal is not enough.

“They cut our budget last year and now they’re wanting to cut it again,” said Kay Harris, director.

  

Harris said the organization has cut staff by nearly half and “everything else to the bare bone.”

  

“The county needs to realize what a vital service we provide to this community,” Harris said. “We saved about 1,800 animals last year. That’s 1,800 that weren’t euthanized and that many that didn’t reproduce and cause an even larger burden.”

  

Adams agreed.

  

“I do believe that the county should look at us as an asset instead of a liability,” she wrote in the e-mail.

  

The humane society opened in 2008 after volunteers raised money for several years and had the land and building donated for the shelter.

  

The county agreed to a contract, which is reviewed annually, for the society to take in animals picked up by animal control for a nominal fee.

  

Initial plans identified the society as a group in need of the county’s financial help that would become self-sufficient within a few years, according to Harris.

  

In addition to county funds, the organization also relies on donations and grants. Harris said self-sufficiency remains the plan.

  

“We would like someday to be able to take care of ourselves,” she said. “But nobody planned for the economy to go the way it did.”

  

County officials can sympathize with budgetary issues. Tanner said every county department and nonprofit agency that receives funding has also cut its budget over the last 18 months.

  

Also at issue is the society’s refusal to share with the county financial documents detailing how funds are spent and the amount of donations collected, according to Tanner.

  

In addition, the society has ignored repeated open record requests from the Dawson Community News to release copies of its financial records.

  

The requests began in November 2008, after budget discussions began for 2009.

  

A similar request filed with the county can’t be filled because the society hasn’t released its financial records to the local government.

  

On Friday, Harris said an accounting firm was in the middle of a complete audit and those documents would be available at Thursday night’s commission meeting.

  

“We’re not a burden on the county,” Harris said. “I understand times are tough. I just feel like the county needs to see the importance of what we are doing.”

 

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