Back to the bargaining table for animal shelter merger decision

Monday night, McCracken County Commissioners unanimously voted against the terms of an agreement with the McCracken County Humane Society.

It’s a story we’ve been following since the county split from the humane society to create their own animal shelter three years ago.

It’s current location was always intended to be temporary, leaving commissioners with two options. The county can contract with the humane society again if they can agree to a better offer, or build a brand new shelter. The decision made Monday night did not give animal shelter supporters all of the answers they wanted.

The announcement of a failed motion to contract with the McCracken County Humane Society was met with applause. After hours of pleading to build a new shelter, McCracken County Commissioners made a move that basically means they’re offering the humane society another chance to come up with a more competitive offer.

After agreeing on an euthanasia policy and opportunities for oversight, the sticking points came down to money and the inclusion of a commissioner on the humane society’s board. Commissioner Ronnie Freeman said, “It’s not really that big of an issue if you don’t have anything to hide.”

The humane society and the fiscal court agreed that animals could be euthanized after 50 days at the shelter if they are tight on space. Animal control officers would also have 24/7 access to the shelter.

Considering the cost, Judge Executive Van Newberry said, “It’s not real clear cut, money wise, what is the better deal. It may be a wash.” The humane society is asking for $235,000 for three years. Animal shelter supporter Darren Sparks said, “After hearing the money and the contract price and everything else… it sounds, to me, more like fiscal irresponsibility.”

Animal shelter supporters like Sparks said they’d still rather use that money and other funds raised in the community for a brand new building, separate from the humane society. That’s something commissioners are still considering. Newberry said, “A state-of-the-art shelter at the humane society, or built by the citizens of this county is a positive thing for the animals in the long run. But, a decision has got to be made… which to do.”

The McCracken County Humane Society’s Director Terry Vannerson said she thinks a merger is in the best interest of the taxpayers and the animals.

The commissioners did not set another deadline for themselves to make a decision. The destiny of the animal shelter could fall into the hands of the new fiscal court in January. Commissioner-elect Bill Bartleman, speaking as a citizen, asked commissioners to get a financial breakdown in writing that would show how the humane society came up with the $235,000 contract price.

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