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Panel: County should build, run own shelter
Commission vote next
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Forsyth County News


A group tasked with exploring the local animal shelter dilemma recommended Tuesday that Forsyth County build and operate its own facility.

The recommendation of the Forsyth County Animal Control & Shelter Advisory Committee will go to the county commission, which could vote on the issue tonight.

If the commissioners approve the concept, the committee will next look at options for funding, site location and other specifics.

At its Tuesday meeting, the five-member committee quickly ruled out not building a shelter.

"A 'no' answer would be to ignore the need," said Commissioner Todd Levent, who is also a member of the committee.

He said the group reached that conclusion based on information from Lanier Orr, who runs the county's current animal control shelter.

Orr, who also sits on the committee, has expressed his desire to step down from an operation that no longer fits the county's needs.

The committee then debated between whether to have the county or a third party operate the shelter.

Levent and John McGruder, committee chairman, supported the county operating the shelter.

Committee member Lance White took some convincing before agreeing with the county operations, provided the committee retained oversight after the shelter has been built.

The committee guidelines state that the group will stay in place for one year after the shelter opens.

The shelter group can't officially move forward until the commissioners give the OK, but the committee decided to get a jump start on possible funding and site locations Tuesday.

David Gruen, Forsyth County's finance director/controller, presented the financial options.

The shelter could be put on the next 1-cent sales tax, which the county is considering putting on the ballot in November.

If approved, the 1-cent sales tax money wouldn't start coming in until 2013, but the county could take out a loan to build and repay it with the tax revenue if time was an issue, Gruen said.

The general fund, a voter-approved bond, an "internal loan" from one county fund to another or a public facilities authority bond are among the other options.

In some cases, a revenue stream must be identified. Raising fees such as rabies tags has been a popular topic, but Gruen said it's not a practical solution.

"There just does not appear to be enough funds generated from this activity to pay even just the debt service for building the building, let alone helping the fees for costs of operation," he said.

Deputy County Manager Tim Merritt, a non-voting committee member, presented the 10 feasible site options he could find involving about 3 acres of county-owned land.

Three park sites were considered, including Central, Fowler and the future Wallace Tatum. The Lanierland and Echols Road properties bought with green space money were also discussed.

Other options include sites on County Way, Canton Highway, Veterans Memorial Boulevard, the northwestern corner of the county and next to Sharon Springs Park.

Subcommittees were formed to discuss financing and location, which will be discussed at the next meeting March 1, if the commission approves the recommendation.

The committee also plans to hear from a Hall County representative who played a role in building its county-owned and operated shelter.