City Commissioner discusses commission decision to allocate $400K for shelter

Marshall City Commissioner Ed Smith (City of Marshall Photos)
Marshall City Commissioner Ed Smith (City of Marshall Photos)

From Staff Reports,

MARSHALL – Tuesday night, there were mixed emotions when the City of Marshall Commissioners voted to allocate $400 thousand for an animal shelter for the city of Marshall.

What has been a hot topic for months now within the community saw a partial light at the end of the proverbial tunnel when the commissioners voted unanimously to allocate the funds and begin negotiations for an architect.

According to one set of plans that were presented by local architectural firm, Flowers & Associates, a new shelter could be built for an estimated cost of more than $600 thousand. The new building would include 20 plus kennels, a quarantine area and a play area.

City staff estimated the cost would actually be around $480 thousand plus after researching the costs of animal shelters built in other cities of the like size. Another set of plans included partial and complete renovation costs to bring the current Marshall Animal Shelter up to code.

It was reported at the meeting that monies allocated would come from capital outlay funds, as well as private donations promised by local citizens who have been strong advocates for the new shelter.

Many present believe that the $400 thousand would not be enough. Commissioners directed city staff to present a plan to the Harrison County Commissioners to seek financial assistance as well.

The Piney Woods News, via email and social media Wednesday and through a city staff member,  presented questions to all commissioners, Lisa Agnor, City Manager for Marshall, Shelly Godwin, supervisor for the City of Marshall Animal Control Officers and Marshall Police Chief Jesus “Eddie” Campa, as the animal shelter does fall under the Marshall Police Department. We asked for responses by Friday at 3 p.m.

Commissioners Vernia Calhoun and Gloria Moon declined to comment. Mrs. Agnor had conflicts in her schedule and will be getting with the PWN at a later date. Commissioner Ed Smith did respond on Wednesday, and the PWN decided to go ahead and post his answers. Below you will find the email response from Commissioner Smith. The questions will be in bold and italicized.

What led the commissioners to the amount $400K?
Commissioner Smith:This clearly is an arbitrary and random number. There doesn’t appear to be any legitimate rationale for this number. It is not based on any reasonable cost estimate for constructing a new facility that meets our current and future needs, ignores the work of our architect, and does not represent any cost estimate the city has obtained from the architect or staff.”

What is next in the process?
Commissioner Smith:Since we are not following any normal process to see this project to an end, it would appear the city staff and public, per the request of the commission, should seek to engage and enlist financial support from the county to make up for the shortfall. Approximately 50 percent of the animals taken in come from county environs outside the city limits. A strong argument can be made that Harrison County should participate for up to 50 percent of the capital costs for a new facility, and 50 percent of the operating costs for any shelter, existing or new. Gregg County has committed to fund 50 percent of the capital costs for construction, and 50 percent of the operating costs for the new shelter in Longview. Our county should do the same.”

How do you feel this decision and amount will solve the current issues faced by the current Animal Shelter?
Commissioner Smith: This may in time prove to be a positive step in the right direction, if commitments made by commissioners last night are adhered to. However, this amount by itself will not solve any of the current issues at the shelter. The biggest issue we have is that we have one of the largest extermination rates in the country and one of the shortest hold times before extermination.  We exterminate 70 – 80 percent of the pets we take in (approximately 2,500 pets exterminated per year). Most of these are healthy, adoptable, non-dangerous pets.”

Anything else you would like to say?
Commissioner Smith:The only way to solve this travesty is to adequately fund a new modern facility, that has all of the features that will allow implementation of the various programs (strong volunteer, adoption, coordination with rescue groups, foster homes, spay/neuter programs) that other successful no-kill operations around the country have adopted and implemented. We don’t have to re-invent the wheel here – all we need to do is copy what others have successfully proven. The meeting was posted for discussion of the various options and the plans submitted by the architect and staff. There was little opportunity given to discuss the merits of the architect’s designs and costs, nor what design elements are needed to be included in order to construct a facility from which a successful no-kill or near no-kill operation can function.”

Editor’s Note: When and if other responses come in from other commissioners and city staff Friday,  we will post in story format. 

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