Jackson County Commissioners have agreed to accept the nearly completed dog shelter building and fund its completion.
That decision, made during a meeting Tuesday morning at the courthouse, was decided with a 2-1 vote. The approving votes were cast by Matt Reedy and Bob Gillaspy, and the dissenting vote was cast by Drew Markel.
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Markel voiced concern with the annual costs of operation of the shelter that would need to be paid for by the county.
“I don’t think I can put that burden on taxpayers,” he said. “This is going to be a substantial investment by the county, and it doesn’t end there. We’re talking tens of thousands of dollars to fund this every year.”
Construction of the shelter behind the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department in Brownstown started in 2018 but came to a stop late last year as donations dwindled. The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t helped fundraising efforts, either, because it forced the cancellation of the annual Fur Ball, which had been expected to help with construction costs.
Markel said he also was concerned with the increasing costs to complete the project.
Debbie Hackman, representing the Jackson County Dog Shelter committee, had asked the county council in August for $85,000 to complete the project.
This is an increase from the estimated $40,000 needed to complete the project in December 2019.
Reedy said he was looking to make a move as soon as possible to avoid further cost increases.
“The longer we go, the more it’s going to cost,” he said.
When discussions about the shelter started several years ago, the intention was to fund construction through donations.
Markel said he also was concerned with tax dollars being used to pay for surgeries for the dogs, something that is currently costing Red Sky Rescue a large portion of its funds. Red Sky is a privately owned animal shelter in the Medora area.
Gillaspy said many of the animals requiring operations at Red Sky are dropped off at the location, not picked up by volunteer staff.
Sheriff Rick Meyer, who will oversee operations of the shelter after its completion, said it will not operate that way.
“I think our policy is going to be if we don’t pick it up, then we don’t take it,” Meyer said.
Once the shelter is finished, inmates from the jail will take care of the dogs, and the county will save the more than $31,000 being paid to Red Sky for housing dogs picked up by the county animal control officer. Those funds are earmarked to help pay some of the costs of housing and feeding the dogs once the new shelter is open for business.
The facility is intended to be a low-kill facility, Hackman said Wednesday.
“Of course, the management of the shelter is up to the sheriff, but we will try to find a home for every dog. Some dogs who are severely injured, elderly with severe health issues or aggressive dogs may have to be euthanized,” she said.
Another factor sparking a decision is that with the shelter being on county land, the county cannot use it for anything else if it was to be left unfinished.
Neither Hackman nor anyone else representing the committee were present at Tuesday’s meeting for the discussion and decision about the shelter.
“I didn’t know anything about that,” Hackman said.
During her most recent discussion with the county council, Hackman discussed the committee’s hesitation with signing the unfinished building over to the county out of fear that it would end up being used for something else.
Despite the county agreeing to accept the building, the committee has not agreed to sign it over yet, she said.
Hackman had previously asked the council for an agreement that would ensure the building would be used for a dog shelter but was not told anything like that would be done.
The concern is those who have donated the more than $240,000 used to get the project to this point would not be getting what they paid for.
Hackman said the committee will be meeting to discuss its next step.
If the building is signed over, the county will need to purchase 30 dog kennels, install a sanitary sewer line, drill a well to provide water and build walls between the kennels. There also is site work and the office that need completed.
Supporters of the shelter may continue to donate to the project through the Community Foundation of Jackson County said Dan Davis, foundation president and chief executive officer.
“This fund was started in April 2015, and the grassroots support of individuals, companies and organizations contributing to the project has just been amazing,” Davis said. “We hope to see this support carry onward as the county takes on the building and moves the shelter toward opening and serving the community.”
In addition to managing gifts to the fund, the foundation has approved $10,000 toward the project.
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How to donate to the Jackson County Dog Shelter
Tax-deductible donations may be made to the foundation at P.O. Box 1231, Seymour, IN 47274. Its office is at 107 Community Drive in Seymour. Online donations may be made at cfjacksoncounty.org.