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To build or not is main issue
Shelter committee holds first meeting
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Forsyth County News

What's next
The Forsyth County Animal Control and Shelter Advisory Committee will hold its meetings at 6:45 p.m. in the commissioners' conference room, Suite 210 of the Forsyth County Administration Building on Feb. 15, March 1 and March 22.

The first question to answer is not when, but if Forsyth County should build its own animal shelter.

"We don't go any further until that decision is made," said John McGruder, local veterinarian and chairman of the advisory committee tasked with tackling the shelter issue.

The committee used its first meeting Tuesday to set rules for how to gather its findings for the county commission, which expects them within about three months.

The county currently contracts out its animal control shelter to the NALAA corporation, headed by local veterinarian Lanier Orr. NALAA receives $40,000 per month.

In early November, commissioners renewed that deal for another year. It would have expired Dec. 31.

The board and the community have expressed interest in the county building its own shelter.

In January, the commissioners rescinded a December vote to build a shelter and formed a committee to study the matter.

Commissioner Todd Levent, a committee member, said Tuesday he is "adamant about trying to make that 90-day time frame."

McGruder wasn't sure if that is a realistic amount of time.

"Speed is not our main goal," he said. "Our main goal on this committee is to do things right. A good shelter ought to last 50 years."

The question of whether to build is the first step, and the committee began forming a list of pros and cons Tuesday.

Members came up with 10 positives and two challenges, the latter concerning financing.

Committee member Lance White started off the pros list with Orr agreeing that he needs to step down as a reason for building a county shelter.

Orr, who also sits on the committee, said the operation has grown too big for one person to handle.

The numbers of animals coming in has actually declined from previous years due to spaying and neutering, Orr said, but the community needs have changed.

"It's not that our capacity is too big right now, it's just that we need a more efficient facility," he said.

The group expects to have a preliminary "yes" or "no" recommendation following its next meeting on Feb. 15.

The committee will not hear public comment at that meeting, though the session is open to the public.

For meetings beyond this month, public comments may be allowed at the outset, but likely will be limited to five speakers at three minutes each.

The committee also plans to invite field experts to join in and help out with subcommittees, which will focus on specific issues such as site planning, funding and education.

The seven-member panel will have a new representative at its next meeting, since Forsyth County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Brian Deblois stepped down.

The county commission is expected to name a new appointee at its meeting tonight.

If the county decides to move forward with a building plan, the committee could continue to meet for a year after construction started.

"This is a long commitment for us," McGruder said. "This is not something that's going away in three months."