It has been more than two years since the Walker County Humane Society shut down its facility citing a deficiency in funding.
The county took over operation of the current animal shelter in July 2011.
The city of Jasper also shares some of the financial responsibilities for the shelter.
State law requires the county to provide a suitable pound, and the same statute obligates the city to either maintain its own shelter or contribute to the county pound because Jasper’s population exceeds 5,000.
“We are saying to you that we want to cooperate with you and do what’s best for all. We’re not sure what that is until you tell us, but we’ve got to go because we are not in compliance,” county attorney Eddie Jackson said.
Commissioners are ready to move forward with construction of an animal shelter in early 2014.
The 1,200 to 1,500 square foot facility is expected to be located at the county landfill.
Jackson said a shelter accommodating the city and the county could expect to serve between 4,000 and 5,000 animals per year.
Construction cost for such a shelter would be at least $300,000.
Jackson alluded to grant opportunities that would be available if the two entities were working together on the project.
Mayor Sonny Posey said the city has $95,000 set aside for the animal shelter in its current budget, which includes the pro rata share required by the state statute as well as the salary for an animal control officer.
Commissioner Keith Davis said the county’s current budget for the animal shelter is $112,000.
A key point of Monday’s discussion was not only how much money the city would be willing to contribute to the shelter, but how many animals it would be allowed to house in the new facility.
Jasper council member Jennifer Smith said a lack of space is one reason why the city’s leash law cannot be strictly enforced.
The city’s animal control officer stops picking up strays once the shelter is full.
“If we are really going to enforce this leash law, we need to make sure that there is enough room,” Smith said.
The city can currently house up to eight animals at the shelter.
After a seven day stay, each animal either remains on the county’s side of the shelter until it is adopted or is euthanized to make room for another animal.
A point of contention was how many animals that are brought to the shelter come from the county versus the city.
Smith said current numbers show an 80-20 split, but others suggested that percentage would easily double if the city’s animal control officer was given additional spaces to fill.
Commissioner Dan Wright suggested basing the city’s financial responsibilities on an initial percentage and then making annual adjustments.
“What if we agreed to take $60,000 in our budget, which would be 30 percent of your total operating cost, and we’d ask for 30 percent of the space?” Mayor Sonny Posey said.
Davis said such an arrangement would likely serve the best interest of all parties.
“I think the easiest thing to do is to come up with an agreement where we build and manage the shelter and you come in on a per-pay basis that we reevaluate each year when we get some true statistics. That’s probably the simplest way to move forward. What I don’t want to happen is for us to look up three months from now and we don’t have anything moving,” Davis said.
Commissioner Steven Aderholt said he also believed it would be best for the county to assume full responsibility for the operation of the shelter.
“You would get what you would expect to get in return. If it’s so many animals per year, then that’s what you can expect from us. But as far as having a city side versus a county side, the county should be able to run it and the city should be expected to contribute what you’re going to contribute,” Aderholt said.
Officials agreed to meet on Monday, Dec. 16, to discuss the animal shelter again.