I have read with much interest the articles in this newspaper and the social media posts regarding the construction of a new animal shelter being proposed by the Franklin County Humane Society (FCHS). I would like to add my thoughts and suggestions to both sides in, hopefully, a constructive manner to achieve this goal.
First, let me say that I am a passionate supporter of animals, owning three dogs myself, but I am not a zealot. I also spent my professional career in state government as a policy and budget analyst at the state level, so I have some exposure to budgeting and the art of legislative compromise.
To our local governments (sadly, it’s still necessary to speak to two rather than one merged government), I believe that 99% of our city and county residents support the construction of a new shelter, and the construction of that facility is long overdue. There has to be a way to do this and not shortchange the facility, but, as always, finances are an issue.
I believe that this is the perfect opportunity to use bonding authority to get this done since it is a capital project that could be paid for over a long period. That means, of course, that the facility must be able to accommodate future as well as current needs.
But both governments must, before the first dollar is handed out, receive in return some assurances that their investment will be worth the cost and that the Humane Society is running the shelter in an acceptable and efficient manner. I have heard from others with more knowledge than myself of both waste and mismanagement and both city and county governments must be presented with evidence that this is untrue (not just saying it is) or prove that such problems are being rectified.
On the operating end, both governments need to understand that they have never paid what it actually costs to run the shelter and care for the animals that FCHS is responsible for. The Humane Society does the city and county a major favor by relieving them of the costs and headaches of running their own shelters (which, for the county at least, is a statutory requirement) and have received short shrift every single year. They need to be prepared to pay their fair share and should already be doing so, budget problems or not.
To FCHS, you are doing us a great favor by taking on this responsibility. But if the problems I have heard of are indeed true, then changes must be made, regardless of whose toes are stepped on. And you must understand that what you want and what you actually need may be two different things, and you must be prepared to see this project with objective eyes. And you can already, hopefully, provide any evidence that local officials need both to prove the efficacy of this project and disprove any waste and inefficiency claims related to operation of the shelter. You do not get a pass just because we all love animals.
You should also demand that both city and county governments pay their fair share on an annual basis, and if you don’t already know an average per-animal cost for care, it should be developed. Negotiate a per-animal charge for animals surrendered and stick to it. Don’t give our governments a pass just because they say they don’t have the money, and be prepared to walk away if necessary. We all care about the animals, but FCHS is being taken advantage of.
My experience is that governments find the funds for what they really want. It's past time for this to happen, but both sides must truly commit to doing whatever it takes to make it happen.
Frankfort resident Paula Moore is a retired policy and budget analyst for the governor’s budget office. She serves as chief financial officer for Horsemen Helping Horses, a nonprofit in Shelbyville.