Proposed animal shelter fundraising contract on hold

Gary B. Gray • Mar 7, 2013 at 9:35 PM

Animal Control Board members agreed to disagree Thursday on a proposed contract from Enka, N.C.-based Dickerson, Bakker and Associates that would put the company in a position to pull the cart on a capital campaign to raise $1.7 million for the new Washington County-Johnson City Animal Shelter.

The five-member board wants badly to get the campaign started, and it collectively feels the company is capable of the task. But the starting gun on an estimated 15- to 18-month campaign will not sound until City Manager and Board Chairman Pete Peterson meets with the city’s legal staff to draft a document that will include the members’ concerns and counter-propositions.

That draft will be sent to members Monday, and at that time they each will include their respective requests, including possible changes in methods of payment, timelines, reimbursement amounts, reporting mechanisms and at least a dozen other issues, including the proposed contract’s language.

Once a coherent reply is compiled, Peterson will contact the company and the two groups will attempt to arrive at an agreement suitable to both parties.

“Simply put, the word ‘shall’ does not appear in the agreement,” said Peterson, who looked at the proposed contract for the first time late Wednesday. “It’s really loose, and there’s no way I could support this as written. We just need to make sure we have the responsibilities and liabilities clearly defined.”

Washington County Humane Society President and board member Lisa Witherspoon answered these comments, saying “You’re right on.” She also said the contract reads “like they’re trying to train us to do the fundraising.”

The company’s proposal asks the board to pay a “discounted” $5,000 per month (down from $5,500) retainer fee for the first six months and renewable at certain periods contingent on progress. It also requires reimbursement for airfare, meals, car rental, mileage, lodging, postage/delivery fees and printing.

It also asks for $75 per hour for assistance with foundations, including research, grant writing and other services outside the monthly fee and includes a stipulation whereby the board can terminate the contract at any time after 30-days notice.

On Feb. 26, the company’s feasibility report revealed the company had identified a potential $250,000 donor. However, company President Derric Bakker told board members the gift was tentative and the unidentified donor was looking for someone to match that figure.

“As long as they will deliver, we’re probably in pretty good shape,” Peterson said Thursday. “I don’t want anybody to think this is a bad proposal. It just needs to be tightened up.”

Tightened up a lot, according to board members.

First, Peterson said paying up front was atypical.

“We usually get something before we give something,” he said.

County Commissioner and board member David Tomita was a bit leery of what the board may have to pay out in expenses.

“What I think is reasonable may not be what you consider reasonable,” he said.

Shelter Director Debbie Dobbs said the board shelled out $740 to pay lead consultant Gary Taylor for his time in Johnson City, which spanned a roughly one-week period while he conducted interviews.

“We’ve got to think about this — $740 a week for 18 months — that’s a little steep,” Tomita said.

That’s $53,280, and it is a concern among all members. If the company was kept on for 18 months, the monthly retainer alone would cost $90,000.

City Commissioner and board member Ralph Van Brocklin made several suggestions, from paying the company its monthly fee only to the point where major donors had been identified, to running with the company for a certain time, then bringing them on as needed on an hourly basis.

Putting a cap on the company’s per diem also came up, and so did the utilization of East Tennessee State University students, who could be organized to run the latter portion of the campaign at no cost in an internship program.

Meanwhile, neither the Animal Control Board nor the Washington County Humane Society, nor the animal shelter has organized a local-level fundraising staff.

Van Brocklin first introduced the idea of hiring a professional firm one year ago. The idea was dropped when it was assumed there were some big-time donors committed to contributing an amount equaling more than twice the amount to build the original $1.2 million footprint. These commitments have since vanished.

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