11/20/05 — Discussions continue on animal shelter

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Discussions continue on animal shelter

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on November 20, 2005 2:09 AM


Local residents hoping for a new animal shelter in Wayne County are beginning to see signs of hope that their dreams could become reality this holiday season.

Concerned Citizens of Wayne County, a local group pushing for a new shelter, have worked over the past two weeks to create public awareness of the shelter's current condition and to fill petitions with signatures.

Goldsboro resident Anita Hajjar said she has collected between 350 to 400 signatures, while Barrett Parker, also of Goldsboro, said she has collected more than 350 signatures. Petitions are located throughout the county at businesses such as Pets Supplies Plus, Frederick's Music and Healthhabit Natural Foods & Wines, Mrs. Parker said. She added that the petitions have been filling up at a rapid pace.

"I would love to say we have 1,000 signatures," she said. "But it is probably somewhere between 800 to 1000."

Concerned Citizens of Wayne County plan to hold a public forum in support of the issue at 7 p.m. Nov. 29. Local residents interested in being one of the 20 heard at the forum, which will be held in the Gray Room at Herman Park Center, should contact Mrs. Parker at 751-3928 or bpakernc@aol.com to sign up.

At the next county commissioners' meeting, scheduled for Dec. 6, Mrs. Parker said she plans to present the petitions and voice her concerns to the commissioners.

However, Concerned Citizens of Wayne County will not be the only group presenting information to the commissioners regarding the animal shelter during the next month.

Wayne County Manager Lee Smith said the county's Animal Control Task Force, formed to create a plan for a future animal shelter, will present its information to the county commissioners at the group's Dec. 20 meeting.

In 2003, the county sponsored a study, conducted by the United States Humane Society, to identify what changes needed to be made to the existing shelter and tips for any future building, Smith said. It will be the information from the task force, however, that decides what step the commissioners will take next.

"There's a lot of people that have a misconception that the commissioners have ignored (the animal shelter). Well, the commissioners have yet to receive a final presentation on a design," Smith said. "Once they receive it, it will basically be a yes or a no or do they need further information."

In the past two years, the county's budget has been extremely tight, Smith said. The recent tax increase was implemented to cover the cost of other mandated projects such as improvements to the county jail and Services on Aging.

According to the Animal Control Advisory Committee, a new animal shelter would cost close to $1 million. The county has already set aside $125,000 for a potential land acquisition, which means the county would need to borrow the remaining $900,000.

The county would need to borrow the money for two reasons. First, Wayne County does not have enough funds available to cover the remaining costs. Also, most state and federal grants are intended for programs instead of buildings, Smith said.

However, Commissioner Andy Anderson said, once the land is cleared for the project, the commissioners would like to see a new animal shelter in Wayne County.

"We have talked about it, planned it and put money aside for it," he said. "But with all of the different issues in the county, the animal shelter slipped through."

Commissioner Jack Best said there are many issues concerning the animal shelter that the commissioners need to study and that there is no reason to comment until he and his colleagues know those issues.

"We usually don't make individual public comments," Best said. "We let Lee Smith do most of our talking for us."

To fund the project, Commissioner Atlas Price said the commissioners will have to work carefully during the budgeting process in January. A new animal shelter, he said, is something he believes is needed for the future of the county.

"I'm an animal lover. My whole family are animal lovers," Price said. "The county needs a new shelter. We know the situation is bad down there."

When the animal shelter began operating in the 1950s, the building was intended to hold a maximum of 50 animals.

During the past year, the animal shelter has processed at least 40 animals per day, said Jerry Pate, chief animal control officer.