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Shelters future remains fuzzy
No decision as deadline looms
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Forsyth County News


With 80 days left on the local animal shelter contract, Forsyth County commissioners on Tuesday again reviewed several options for continuing the service.

And again, though new ideas were floated, the commission could not come to a decision on the matter.

Through the end of this year, the county has an agreement with NALAA to operate the animal control facility at Orr Animal Hospital on Old Atlanta Road.

NALAA terminated the original agreement in spring 2009, but the county negotiated to continue the services through 2010 at a rate of $5,000 more per month, for a total of $480,000 per year.

Discussion of the next step has been postponed several times since June.

Donna Kukarola, the county’s procurement director, told commissioners Tuesday that construction estimates for a county shelter came back at $2.5 million, including equipment but not a surgical room.

The county could either run the shelter itself or hire a firm for an additional estimated cost of between $490,000, the lowest proposal, or $843,000, the highest.

Debt services for taking out a loan to build a facility would also contribute to the annual cost for the county.

Commissioner Brian Tam has been meeting with Lanier Orr, the holder of the contract, whom Tam said has agreed to renew the current contract for two years.

“In 80 days, this contract expires and there’s no option. It needs to be renewed plain and simple,” Tam said.

“Then, if you want to look at a long-term solution ... we can do that.”

The commission appeared to lean toward renewing the contract, either in its current language or revised, but only as a short-term solution.

“Sooner or later, we’re going to have to get into the animal shelter business,” Chairman Charles Laughinghouse said. “You’re not going to find anyone who’s going to continue to do this forever on a contract basis.”

The agenda item regarding the contract renewal was postponed until Oct. 26.

Laughinghouse said the county may want to look into revising the contract to include more volunteer involvement.

The commission also expressed interest in encouraging the shelter to work with more rescue groups to lower the amount of animals kept or put down.

Commissioner Jim Boff said he has heard complaints from residents that the shelter has been unwilling to work with outside groups, both nonprofit and rescue.

“If there’s credence to either of those things, I’d love to know the reasons,” he said.

Tam, who has met with Orr several times, agreed to arrange a meeting with himself, Orr and Laughinghouse to discuss the issue.

Commissioner Jim Harrell said he believes most everyone involved has the common goal of reducing the number of animals being taken to shelters “by having an effective program.”

Working toward that goal would help the county lower the substantial costs involved with maintaining a large program.

Harrell said that goal could possibly be achieved by getting other county animal organizations more involved.

Commissioner Patrick Bell said he once lived in an area where the humane society took care of all the animal shelter needs, a situation he hopes Forsyth may look forward to in the future.

Though he said the county can’t presently afford to build a new facility, Bell added that he doesn’t think an animal shelter is something the county government should be handling.

“I struggle with spending that kind of money on animals, “ he said. “That is not a function of government.”

Harrell said the shelter is also an issue of public safety, since animals cannot be left running wild and multiplying because they are not spayed or neutered.