In council meeting Member Ned Mecham came out swinging against the animal control building. Mecham said, “I have talked to people from both ends of this county. The only ones I hear that are excited about this building is on the county council. I haven’t talked to one person in this county that think it’s a great idea for the county to go more in debt. Last year we went one and a half million for the road bond and this is another $600,000 that has been approved for a building for twenty five years. I haven’t talked to anyone that thinks that this county going into debt is a good thing. I know if this is put on the ballot, I know that the county would defeat it and I know our budget this year. I know that the road department is a mess and is going to need to take money out of the general fund. I know that our Sheriff’s department is going to need money out of the general fund…I know we are going to need more money for the school resource officer. I know that diesel now is up 30-35% and I know gasoline is up 30-35% which is going to take a lot more money for fuel out of our general fund. I think it is a disservice to citizens of this county to go further in debt…”
The county currently leases space from local veterinarian Marion Lott for $1,300 per month. The council has been debating whether to replace this lease with a facility built by the county for several years. Last year the council took action to request a low cost loan from state funds to construct a facility for animal control. The decision to borrow the money was not heavily debated in the council at the time, but has caused controversy and debate ever since the new council took office in January. The council decided on a loan for $600,000 to fund a building that could include expansion to manage the overcrowding in the county building, but at this point the scope of the building will mean that the cost is significantly less than the authorized amount.
The questions on the proposed facility have revolved around whether the county should take on more debt and whether the combined cost of construction and maintenance on the animal control facility would be greater than the cost the county is currently expending. There has also been serious debate on whether the county should add more space to this proposed building to try to relieve some of the space problems in the county building.
The council finally determined that the construction should be limited to the original scope of the proposed facility, which would be to house animal control, and to create garage space for some county vehicles that are currently stored outdoors.
The proposed project is now at the stage where the county is soliciting bids for the project. The decision, it seems, is far from over, however. Given the strength of the statement by councilmember Mecham and comments by Member Don Mathews there are still hurdles in from of the project once the final costs are known.
The county has already incurred the debt to build the facility and is expending interest on the loan. Councilmember Mathews stated, “Am I concerned, ‘Yes I am.’ I have probably asked the most questions on this building since it was first proposed, but the bond has been issued. We are paying interest on it now and the interest is just continuing to add on. We already have expenses involved in putting this thing together and I am not sure we are at a point where can turn around and go back.”
This may sum up where the council stands. Several of the members are in favor of the facility because they see it as a better use of county funds. Others may simply be persuaded because the county is well down the path of making the decision to build and the costs to back out now would be too high. The council expects to review bids and make a decision in an upcoming council meeting.