Members of the DeKalb Animal Coalition for the Humane Treatment of Animals are seeking financial support from the County and City of Smithville to help build an animal shelter.
Sue Puckett Jernigan, a member of the Coalition addressed County Mayor Tim Stribling and members of the County Commission in an informal workshop meeting Thursday night at the courthouse. Other members of the Coalition in attendance were President Marsha Darrah, Jason Ray, Dr. Hugh Don Cripps, and Renee Ferguson. David McDowell and Jason Murphy, also members of the Coalition, were unable to attend.
The Coalition, a 501 (c) 3 charity organization, is reaching out to city and county leaders for help in next year's budgets but also plans to have fundraisers and seek grants and tax deductible donations from the public to obtain the money needed to build and start up a shelter.
The Coalition's goal is for the county to have a permanent and safe location for neglected, abandoned and abused animals; to provide an alternative low-kill policy so these animals receive medical attention, reduce overpopulation, and be cared for until they can be placed in permanent homes.
The Coalition would like to build a shelter on a four acre site near the solid waste transfer station, behind Tenneco off of Highway 70 east. The property is currently owned by the Smithville Industrial Development Board.
In her remarks Thursday night, Jernigan asked county leaders to consider partnering with the city and share in the estimated cost of $150,000 to build a shelter. The Coalition would raise money for the furnishings. Under the proposal, the city and county would share in the cost of hiring two persons to staff the facility.
"I'm really excited about our DeKalb Coalition for the Humane Treatment of Animals," said Jernigan. "This has been a headache for the city and county for many years and it's the aim of our Coalition to assume the burden of the operation for a suitable animal shelter that is yet to be built."
"We hope to locate the building over behind Tenneco. There's a few acres over there that would be just perfect for us. We're hoping that the city and county will share in the approximate cost of $150,000 estimate for constructing the building. This is not going to be any frills building. It's just going to be bare essentials that's necessary to do what it is supposed to do. It's going to be about 3,500 square feet. It would house 28 dogs and I don't know how many cats because cats are not as big as dogs so we can have more of those," she said.
" We hope to assume the responsibility of raising the funds to furnish the interior of the facility and that would be the cat cages, the washer, the dryer, the tub, the office equipment, doors, beds, bowls, and things like that which would be a substantial cost of $75,000 to $100,000 but our coalition will assume that cost".
"Once we have the building we'll be eligible for grants to defray some of the operating expenses. We're hoping that the city and county will cooperate and join together in a way that will be acceptable to both entities to have two qualified energetic hard working employees for the shelter. We would assume oversight of the employees and carefully help screen them for the day to day operation of the facility," she said.
"We want to have an active fostering and adoption program as well as an animal control operation. We will have a spay and neuter program which we are in the process of applying grants for at this time and we will have a very active education program".
"We would appreciate any help you can give us. We're all in this business together. We're in a county that we love and cherish and we want to take care of God's little creatures," said Jernigan.
Following Jernigan's remarks, members of the commission asked some questions of the Coalition.
Sixth District Commissioner Betty Atnip: "Why this location?"
Sue Puckett Jernigan: "It's an Ideal place with easy access. There are no residents around where neighbors would be complaining about dogs barking. It's a perfect site we would hope to use"
Atnip: How did you arrive at the $150,000 figure?
Marsha Darrah: "We had a contractor go over this roughly for us. Our next step is to meet with Mary Johnson in Cookeville. She was the architect for the Cookeville Animal Shelter and she has volunteered to help us with some things. We're hoping that she will do a little free service with us since ours is going to be so small compared to what they did there. We're hoping that from our meeting with her we'll be able to get some renderings . But whatever we say (cost estimate), a building is going to have to be put out for bids so it's only going to be what the acceptable bid is."
Second District Commissioner Joe Johnson: "What is your time frame?"
Dr. Hugh Don Cripps: "Realistically we were looking at a completion maybe by the end of this year. I don't know how long it will take to build a building but it's going to be a shell. We're hoping that between the county and city they will appropriate enough money to do that then we will individually and through personal donations and money raising events raise enough money to put the inside part to it and that's probably going to run about as much as the building. Everything said and done it would probably be $300,000. We hope to be able to help staff it with volunteers. We have lots of people who want to volunteer. I know things have been started in the past and not followed up on but we intend to follow up on this even if it's just us against the world. We'll try to raise the money. But we hope that you will help us by realizing your responsibility."
Betty Atnip: "What type of grants are available?"
Renee Ferguson: "There are grants available that would allow us to buy certain equipment. There are grants available for spay and neuter programs. There are grants available for food. There are grants for education purposes. There are lots of grants available but we must have a physical address to apply for a lot of these grants".
Betty Atnip: " Who would these people report to? Who would be their boss?"
Marsha Darrah: "We envision it being with the Coalition simply because I doubt that the county would want to fool with the day to day operations of an animal shelter. I know the city is tired of it. We would assume the oversight and let them report to us. That way nobody could call you up and complain. The complaints would go to us".
Fifth District Commissioner Jerry Adcock: "Who would do the hiring?"
Marsha Darrah: " We would hope that the city and county would do the hiring but that they would let us (Coalition) have an opportunity to recommend or review their employment".
Joe Johnson: "I think any hiring and firing should be left to you. I don't think the county and city should be involved in the hiring and firing. Just let you be a separate entity and if we give you the money, you take care of it. It would be best to let you have control of that. I think you could make better decisions than we could".
The county commission's budget committee will soon begin work on the 2015-16 budget but whether funding for this project will be included has not yet been decided .
Meanwhile, the public is invited to attend monthly meetings of the DeKalb Animal Coalition which are held on the first Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. on the second floor of the Smithville city hall building