Oconee County Administrative Officer Jeff Benko gave a simple answer last week at the Animal Control Advisory Board meeting to a question about the status of the feasibility study for renovation or replacement of the existing Animal Shelter.
Benko told Animal Control Department Director Catlyn Vickers that nothing has been done to date.
Benko blamed the delay on collection of revenue from the 2015 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, which the county only began in October of last year.
The county could take the $10,000 from unspent revenue for county facilities in the 2004 SPLOST or from the county’s General Fund, but Benko did not say that.
The two-hour-long meeting was at time contentious, as the Board adopted a new resolution for the Board of Commissioners to approve setting up the Advisory Board as well as a new set of bylaws.
The Board turned back a request by Vickers that the Board change its composition to guarantee more diversity of membership and revise its statement of duties to underscore the advisory nature of the Animal Control Advisory Board.
The Board has been pushing for action on the feasibility study, but Benko said the earliest he expected to have something to report was late spring, with June 30, the end of the current Fiscal Year, being the latest date for a report.
Benko said he would be asking Vickers to develop a request for proposals soon.
That RFP will ask interested bidders to propose examination of the existing Animal Shelter’s foundation, electrical system, and construction to determine what has to be expanded and “whether or not the grounds are suitable for expansion on the site.”
If the voter-approved $750,000 for the project is to be spent at the existing site, Benko said, the county needs to know that the existing site “could properly support it.”
Benko’s response to the question by Vickers about the status of the feasibility study is below.
Benko told the Advisory Board it was necessary to allow money to accumulate in the 2015 SPLOST account before the county can spend $10,000 for the feasibility study.
The county has $3.6 million in unspent monies from the 2004 SPLOST that are designated for county facilities and that could be used for the feasibility study.
The county also could take money from the General Fund to do the study.
The county recently has spent $10,000 for development of the Mars Hill Road Overlay and $8,000 for consulting services from the Carl Vinson Institute of Government to advise the county on prezoning.
Commissioner Jim Luke said there was more money available for the study of prezoning if it were needed.
The Advisory Board had little trouble passing the proposed changes to its bylaws.
The group agreed to meet not less frequently than quarterly, rather than twice a year, and that special meetings can be called by the chairperson of the Advisory Board, by the Animal Control Department director, or by a majority of the Advisory Board.
The regular meeting are to be in January, April, July and October and be held at “outside regular business hours.”
These changes now go to the Board of Commissioners for final action.
The Advisory Board had lots of problems revising the resolutions that were approved by the Board of Commissioners in April of 2010.
The Advisory Board did agree unanimously to reduce its membership from six to five, but a discussion about the composition of the Board quickly became contentious.
Vickers had recommended that the Advisory Board contain one companion animal veterinarian, one member who is involved in the breeder and trainer community, one member from the Humane Society or another animal welfare organization, and one non-pet-owning resident of the county.
Only Board member Helen Fosgate voted for that recommendation.
She also proposed that Board members disclose the existence of any conflict of interest, “whether financial or philosophical, that may be in conflict with the mission and goal of Oconee County Animal Control.”
Disagreement About Meaning Of Conflict
Advisory Board member Janet Calpin said the conflict of interest provision would eliminate Board Member Helen Fosgate, who was biased in favor of the Animal Shelter because she volunteers there.
Fosgate said the other Board members were biased against the shelter because they support the American Kennel Club.
The video below shows that exchange. Fosgate is on the left, with Board Chair Susan Wells to her left (viewer’s right), followed by Tom Beacorn, Gail Wiley, Calpin and Claire Hamilton..
OCO: Calpin And Fosgate from Lee Becker on Vimeo
Suggestions Vs. Advise
Vickers proposed a series of changes in the language of the resolution that would have made the advisory role of the Advisory Board clearer.
She proposed that “providing general policy oversight” be eliminated in favor of “offer suggestions.”
Vickers wanted the following duties eliminated entirely:
“To provide policy oversight to the Animal Control Program.”
“To assist the Animal Control Director and the Board of Commissioners in facilitating and coordinating the Animal Control Program for Oconee County.”
In each of these cases, all Advisory Board members voted to overrule Vickers. Only Fosgate supported Vickers.
Benko told the Advisory Board that the Board of Commissioners makes policy and that he is responsible for making sure Vickers, who reports to him, follows that policy. That did not affect the desire of the majority of the Advisory Board.
The document now goes to the Board of Commissioners for final action.
The meeting lasted two hours and was attended by 16 members of the public. It was held on Feb. 10 in the Community Center at Veterans Park.
Three of those attending spoke during the citizen comment section.
One of those speaking called for more diversity on the Board. Another called for pet licensing.
The third, Sarah Bell, suggested the Board reach out to veterinarians in the county for guidance.
I could not attend the meeting, and Sarah Bell recorded the video used here in this post.
The entire video of the media is below. The video clips above were taken from this video.
OCO: Animal Control Advisory Board 2 10 16 from Lee Becker on Vimeo
The millions left over from the 2004 SPLOST is the reason I vote against SPLOST. They have had this money for 12 years and yet they cannot spend $10,000 for a feasibility study. This is ridiculous.
I agree that there is money available for a study. But obviously the commissioners don't want to spend it right now. After all something more important may come along that the public is not aware of yet.
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