Johnson City Commissioner Clayton Stout thinks the city should commit more tax dollars to building a new animal shelter.
Stout suggested at the City Commission’s last meeting that the city take $160,000 from an expected $680,000 reduction in capital service debt and apply that to a $2 million bond issue to help get the project moving along.
As Press staff writer Gary B. Gray reported in Sunday’s paper, Commissioners Jeff Banyas and David Tomita were not at the meeting June 6, so Stout agreed to bring up the subject again Friday when commissioners hear a second reading of the new budget.
We think Stout’s idea is certainly one worthy of debate. So far, the efforts to raise private funds for the new shelter have — to put it kindly — been quite clumsy.
“The fundraising effort for the new animal shelter has gone through some stops and starts, and that’s been a frustration to everyone,” Mayor Ralph Van Brocklin said last week.
Van Brocklin has assured us that things will soon be moving forward now that an Animal Control Board fundraising committee is in place to properly identify possible donors. We hope he’s right.
The clock is ticking on this project. The Animal Control Board has 11 months to meet the obligations stipulated by Washington County commissioners in an April 26 resolution that released $100,000 to help with construction of the new shelter.
That agreement says an additional $150,000 will be given to the board when $1 million in private funds is raised. If those funds are not used for construction within 24 months of the April resolution, the county expects its donation to be returned.
As we’ve said in this space before, we believe local governments have a responsibility to contribute to this essential public service. The current animal shelter at 525 Sells Ave. is in desperate need of replacement. The animal shelter takes in many more dogs and cats than the facility was ever designed to hold.
Animal control officials have been asking for a new facility for more than a decade. Last year, city and county officials agreed to purchase 6.6 acres to build a new shelter at 3411 N. Roan St. Both governments, however, asked the Animal Control Board to come up with the bulk of the funds needed to get the project done.
It does seem a bit curious, however, that animal control would not be treated the same as any other government service.
Local governments don’t ask private donors to pick up the lion’s share of the costs to build seniors’ centers, softball fields and public swimming pools.
Incredibly, local government leaders treat animal control as if it were some feel-good charity and not an essential public safety and health service.
We understand the reasons some government leaders give in asking animal lovers to help fund the new shelter, but the cost of the entire project should not be placed squarely on the backs of private donors.
That’s why we believe Commissioner Stout’s idea has merit.