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Animal shelter back on hold
New committee to study matter
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Forsyth County News

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The full survey results can be viewed on the Humane Society's Web site, www.forsythpets.org.

Construction of a county-owned animal shelter will have to wait a bit longer.

The Forsyth County commission voted 4-1 on Thursday to overturn a Dec. 16 vote that awarded the design/build of a shelter, instead deciding to form a committee to study the matter.

Commissioner Jim Boff cast the lone vote against overturning the December decision.

Two of the three members who supported the plan last month are no longer on the commission.

"I made a notice then that I would make a motion to rescind that action and bring back a plan, which I have done," said Commissioner Patrick Bell during Thursday's meeting.

In addition to undoing the earlier vote, Bell called for a committee to study the issue and recommend how best to build a shelter.

The county currently contracts its animal shelter operations with NALAA, which receives $40,000 per month.

In early November, commissioners renewed that deal for another year with a one-year automatic renewal.

They were left with few options since the contract was set to expire Dec. 31. However, they expressed continued interest in building a county-owned shelter.

Thursday, Bell shared his suggestions for the committee and the shelter in a document given to his colleagues and put on public record.

Chairman Brian Tam added an amendment that Lanier Orr, who holds the current contract, be invited to serve on the committee. It passed 5-0.

Bell does not plan to be the board's committee representative, since he said he's been pegged as the source of frustration from many favoring the shelter.

"It might need a fresh approach," he said after the meeting.

Boff suggested that one resident representative from each district be appointed, which drew applause from supporters.

The makeup of the committee and its members is expected to be discussed at a work session Tuesday.

It's Bell hope that the committee will reach its findings by early April. He said the plan would include specifics such as how to pay for and operate the shelter, as well as what services it should offer.

The committee is a great but long overdue idea, said Bill Mulrooney of the Humane League of Lake Lanier rescue organization.

"I think [on Thursday] we took two steps back and one step forward," he said. "But at least we took a step forward."

Mulrooney, who has been sitting in on the board's talks, works with one of two organizations that submitted a proposal to operate the facility.

Support for the county-built shelter has grown at meetings. Thursday, a sea of supporters in blue shirts filled the front half of the commission room.

Five people spoke in favor of the commission sustaining its previous vote to build the shelter.

Dave Richard, a former county commissioner, urged the board to not overturn the December vote.

"When has 'no' ever solved a problem?" Richard said. "You have time to cross the T's and dot the I's over the next few months as the shelter is built."

The Orr family notified the county more than two years ago that they wished to get out of the shelter business, he said.
Officials have since "squandered" opportunities to find a solution.

Robert Furr shared the results of an Internet community survey.

The survey, conducted by the Forsyth County Humane Society, drew 966 responses with 86 percent of those in favor of the December vote to build a shelter. Of that total, 822 are county residents.

"While this is not a general probability survey of folks of the county, I think it is an indication of how folks who are particularly interested in this issue are thinking," Furr said.