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Published: 12/3/2008

Henry County mulls pound plan

BY CHAUNCEY ALCORN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

NAPOLEON - Henry County officials are deciding whether or not the county should build and operate its own dog pound, and their decision may end up hurting the local Humane Society.

Commission President Richard Bennett said the Humane Society has a history of mismanagement, and county Dog Warden Beth Spurgeon is telling commissioners operating their own pound may be better for the county in the long run.

"We're not just pointing fingers at the Humane Society. We've done this throughout the year, evaluating county spending," Mr. Bennett said. "Whenever we have an employee with an idea to save money, we look at it."

The county has a $23,000 annual contract with the Humane Society to house and care for local stray dogs, and the Humane Society recently submitted its annual budget, requesting a 5 percent increase for 2009. The Humane Society's contract with the county ends Jan. 1, 2010.

Stacy Bressler, director of the Henry County Humane Society, said if that contract is not renewed, the society, which employs nine people, would lose more than a fifth of its $120,000 operating budget.

"It would put a great financial strain on our shelter. That's just a small part of our income, but our only other main fund-raiser is our Monday night bingo, and with the economy at a downturn, we're looking at less people coming to that. We're breaking even at this point," she said.

Mrs. Bressler, who began serving as director earlier this year, estimates the Humane Society has contracted with Henry County for dog-recovery services for the last 25 years.

The total cost of expenses from January to November of 2008 was slightly less than $98,000, according to a report Mrs. Bressler presented to the commissioners during their meeting yesterday.

Mr. Bennett, who has served as a commissioner for about 16 years, said the county has been dealing with mismanagement issues concerning the Humane Society for almost as long as he has been in office.

The Humane Society, which collects revenue from dog licenses and animal housing costs among other services, has historically failed to deposit money in the county's bank account in a timely manner, creating accounting issues with the state auditor's office, he said.

"The dog warden has run into problems where she's taken dogs out to the Humane Society and there hasn't been an open area for those dogs to be dropped off," Mr. Bennett said.

County officials estimate the county would spend $305,000 to build its own dog pound and suggest using the money for the Humane Society contract to pay for operating expenses and the interest on a bank loan.

Mrs. Bressler said paying for a new building does not make sense if the county is interested in saving money.

"What puts me at a loss is if they're only going to pay us $25,000, how do they think they're going to build and operate their own pound for less than that," she said.

Contact Chauncey Alcorn at:

calcorn@theblade.com

or 419-724-6168.



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