County Commissioners and Council had an executive session preceding the meeting.
Two decisions resulted from the executive meeting.
1. Council passed a non-binding resolution for St. Leon to keep their town budget at or below the 3.9% increase for 2009.
2. Commissioners accepted the $795,000 counter offer from Rack for the buildings and acreage on Rack property on Randall Avenue in the Aurora Industrial Park for the county highway garage and facility. Hughes voted NAY- no reason given as to why.
Council then noted that $400,000 was available in the county highway savings for this so far and they will take moneys from two different funds to make up the difference, and Council approved the funding.
[NOTE: This property was bought at a reasonable price due to market conditions. The county has been discussing this for several years and cooperation between commissioners and council brought it to fruition tonight. Though it passed easily at this meeting- many negotiations in the past lead to this moment. Efficient highway dept operations will benefit all county citizens in services and in effective use of tax money.]
Animal Shelter Hearing only took 1 hour to hear all citizens wishing to speak. The room was full- approximately 80 people. About 20 of those were news people ( WSCH, REGISTER PUBLICATIONS, and CHANNEL 12) and elected officials. PAWS members and Animal Control Board members were also present.
Commissioners noted this was a hearing only and there would be no resolution this evening. They were here to hear the public and encouraged everyone to speak politely and allow all to be heard. [NOTE: 10 AM Thurs the Commissioners etc. meet with SPCA in the county adm bldg. This is a public meeting]
COUNCIL AND COMMISSIONERS SPOKE FIRST (15 minutes)
Tom Cheek- County Council- noted that $1.775 million was the lowest bid (though the architect said it was unqualified, as it did not follow his specs). He heard that energy efficiency was being cut for “luxury” items. Cheek felt it needed to be FUNCTIONAL and a HUMANE place for animals.
Bill Ullrich- County Council and Animal Control Board since 2000. He has seen a remarkable change in the way animals are treated with both the county workers and PAWS volunteers’ efforts. It is a slow process- but it seems that the shelter has taken on a life of its own in scope and size. He wants a nice facility for animals and public. Ullrich said a “no kill” shelter is a lofty goal- but it is not practical; unfortunately, we have to euthanize some. If the shelter gets too big, there is a lot more needed to handle the costs. This is a lot bigger and a lot more expense. Now we are at $250,000 to operate, but we can only handle so much more. He would like to scale things back a bit and eliminate the frills.
Tom Orschell- County Commissioner- thanked attendees and Mayor Cunningham for his city’s generous donation to the shelter. PAWS has raised money also. He met with Daryl Sears and the PAWS folks and expressed his desire to know how much it would cost to maintain and operate the facility they designed. When you go from 3000 sq ft to 14,414 sq ft how many more employees are needed. They are meeting with SPCA and Daryl Gates Thurs to help get a line on this. Orschell stressed that he is responsible for the people’s money and he has to know how much this is going to COST!
Jeff Hughes- County Commissioner- We need a much better shelter than what we have now. In the past, Council asked how much this would cost and PAWS thought only one new employee was needed. Geothermal will lower HVAC costs. We have come to a roadblock and need to have a short-term task force to put a realist budget together. When PAWS brought it, we thought it was a good idea. I am not going to say I am an animal lover- I was raised on a farm – and you all know what cows and pigs are for.
Ralph Thompson- President of County Commissioners, Member of Animal Control Board, and Acting overseer of Animal Control until a director is approved. Thompson thanked the citizens and PAWS for their spay, neuter, and mobile adoptions program. He noted the shelter runs with a dedicated staff of county employees. As overseer in the beginning- he was almost full time there- now it is reduced to a few hours a week with the staff handling it. The facility needs to be improved and Council and Commissioners have to be good stewards of the public’s money. The current shelter deteriorated because the county could not afford the upkeep.
Liz Morris- County Council- A lot of people would love to be in our position- where an organization has raised a huge amount of money. Volunteer hours could help offset payroll. Reasonable people can come to a reasonable solution. Morris appreciates all their efforts.
PUBLIC- (TOOK ABOUT 45 MINUTES)
Dennis Monroe- PAWS board member- we agree that the shelter needs to be built and a lot of money was raised. We agree that the new facility needs a significant organized volunteer program- as all other shelters use.
The new shelter is 3 times as large- well actually it only increases the dog space by 33%- the rest is people space. There is a lot of lobby, volunteer area, education room etc. [NOTE: This may be a clue as to where savings could be made. The lobby could double as education area during those programs for example.]
Donna Hartman- took cats to the shelter 2-3 years ago when they were dumped at my house. Joined PAWS and helped raise money. Could not wait for the shelter to be built! PAWS raised the money- it is a gift from us to us. Nobody has really talked to us (PAWS) about all of this. I am not an officer of PAWS, just one of dozens and dozens who raised the money.
Sandy Carley- PAWS BOARD and Animal Control Board- just here to answer questions if needed.
Jim Scott- It is apparent that there is a lack of understanding as to what is going on- $1.8 million was raised. [NOTE: This number keeps changing- $1 million from L-bg- but PAWS raised $600,000 before- maybe more has come in?]
What is the need? - PAWS has a good handle on what is going on with animals. Then we need to figure out what it takes to take care of that need. It is too crowded at the current shelter. Both Butler and Hamilton County built brand new shelters. There is no question that you need volunteers. PAWS spent $250,000 on spay and neuter. PAWS is a partnership- and we need to open ourselves to working with them. If we cannot do the shelter right- then PAWS should take the money back and WAIT. [NOTE: PAWS has their money- the only money in the county coffers is Lawrenceburg’s $1 million. That would be returned also.] Move this process on. I do not know what you think, Mr. Thompson. I hear something about smaller shelters like Switzerland County’s. Let’s just do it right.
Linda Thaler- Moved here 7 years ago. Aghast when I went to the shelter. A county like this should have a shelter we can be proud of. Mindsets are changing- we can expect more.
Talk to Mr. Gates- he has done a wonderful job in Ham Cty.
Gina Murray- Thanks for the open meeting. I agree we should have a comprehensive budget task force like Hughes said. I noted online that even people dying here give money to PAWS. The design is an excellent design. We are only as good as our weakest. If we have no space in the shelter- people drop them somewhere.
Annie Meyers- I understand that at every phase you were shown documents of this. Why now is there a change of heart? Thompson said he was not shown documents in 2.5 years here. Hughes thought they could tweak it and make it work. [NOTE: The PLANS with details were not given to commissioners at phases. At least not in public meetings that I attend. There was a presentation a couple years ago on the status of their plans. Perhaps Rick Fox was given them at ACB meetings, as he was the commissioner rep until 2009. Now the only commissioner remaining from those early planning days is Hughes. He has indicated they gave tacit approval to plans then. Does no one see that there is also one other big difference in the last year? The economy has tanked. Public coffers get hit the same as private businesses and job seekers. A prudent look at the plans and scope of costs is NECESSARY.]
Vivien Reinhardt ( sp?)- You knew this was coming and this is the thanks they get? People gave money- they need to know what is happening with that. There are horrible smells at the shelter- animals out there are suffering…
Pat Hawkins- new to the county- 2 years ago. I adopted a cat from the shelter. Appalled at the conditions. We have money sitting in the bank and dozens of volunteers willing to help. PAWS is part of the solution and not the problem. There are models to tell us the costs for heating and A/C etc. Move forward.
Barbara Platt- you said you didn’ t see the plans- then how are you telling us we can’t afford it? Thompson- we looked at other shelters…[NOTE: They did see the plans THIS year- that’s when the questions started coming in. The question was about prior to this year.]
Bill Cunningham- Mayor Lawrenceburg- see that the 2 sides are very far apart. Been through this before in my political career. Get both sides to get info together and get a mediator to reach agreement. [NOTE: A mediator COSTS more money however.]
Orschell- you volunteering to mediate?
Cunningham- you need someone way above me!
Maria LaRosa- Why wasn’t this shelter taken care of three years ago?
Hughes- there was a change in two commissioners. I am still on board with this. I wasn’t in full control of this. Fox was on the board then. I think the unrealistic budget escalated this.
Dennis Monroe- ( spoke again for PAWS)- the Aug 21,2007 Commissioner meeting notes show Sandy Carley presented a packet of info to the commissioners. The brochure showed the floors plan. Thompson- but not the documents.
Doug Hedrick- Mayor of Greendale- We have a 13,000 sq ft firehouse. Some of the costs there are $2000 a month for ??? and $600-900 a month for HVAC summer to winter costs. The costs of running it is much greater than the costs to build it. Let’s get down to the table and get this built. [NOTE: Not sure if Hedrick wanted to build it as is when he talked about running costs, but then he ended with saying to get it done. Greendale had originally offered land to PAWS to build a shelter.]
Tommy Beatley- set a goal of when you will break ground and then reach that goal.
Lisa Harrison- shelter worker- we go in every day and clean the shelter every day. We have very few volunteers now- we need more on a REGULAR BASIS.
Unidentified woman- Putting her on the spot isn’t fair- you are her boss- you should recuse yourself! ( talking to Thompson)
Lisa W- It’s OK- I was planning to talk anyway.
Orschell- Maybe we need a mediator, Maybe a committee, but we DO NEED a shelter.
Cheek- What’s the timetable for a new director.
Doug Taylor- Lawrenceburg K-9 police officer and ACB member- I agree with Orschell. If I’d had 366 more votes I’d be sitting in Hughes seat right now.
Hughes – we need to move forward. Get a committee to look at this budget- maybe Commissioner, Councilman, PAWS, L-bg, and G-dale. [NOTE: Add Pickens and/or Jessica Tibbetts to get the county numbers too.]
Dennis Kraus- For 2010 we already have to add $111,000 over 2009. The county cannot handle this kind of yearly increase.
Cheek- We are looking at this now and into forever. Windows, insulation, HVAC are the LAST things you should cheat on if you are building a home- same for a shelter.
We have injected %5.6 million into our operational costs out of gaming money. WE are NOT rich- due to the negative costs of gaming too as in courts, jails etc. This year we did not increase salaries. Is the new shelter $500 or 300,000 per year- we don’t know! Last year we laid off 2 highway workers.
Todd Listerman- Highway Director- WE used $750,000 out of gaming funds just to make operating costs for highway. Thankfully salt and fuel went down this year.
Cheek- we have to look further out. The state capped money from our gaming and sent it to other non-gaming counties.
Orschell- Aurora YMCA raised money for the building but can’t operate it so it sits empty. WE don’t want that.
Cheek- Build what you NEED, efficient as you can, and what you can afford to run.
Thompson- I haven’t been involved in PAWS since my wife died- for personal reasons. I saw the plans THIS year and started to ask questions. The shelter has improved since I began overseeing it- PRO BONO. It smells in the morning and then it gets cleaned again. There are PAWS volunteers and others out there. [NOTE: Sometimes county jail sends workers out from the jail inmate population also.]
We tried to get this out the public- hence this meeting.
Orschell and Hughes also thanked the crowd.
Thompson- said there were other problems he’d been working to resolve including BZA issues on a variance, farm contract on the land, and Park Board cooperation. These still have to resolve before they break ground.
Decision on next steps will be discussed at the next commissioners meeting Tues Oct 6th at 7 PM.
There is NO MORNING commissioner’s meeting in October due to Judge Blankenship needing the room for court.
Meeting adjourned at 8:20 PM
Christine Brauer Mueller