01/01/06 — County wants petitioners to ante up

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County wants petitioners to ante up

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on January 1, 2006 2:00 AM

Last month, the Wayne County Board of Commissioners began the process of building a new animal shelter by approving a location for the structure. However, the commissioners still need to find a way to pay for the facility.

And they might turn to animal rights advocates to help.

A new shelter, which will be built on 8th Street behind the old Wayne Community College campus, is expected to cost about $1 million. At a December meeting, Commissioner Jack Best suggested commissioners ask the people who signed a petition urging them to hurry up and build the shelter to chip in $20 each.

Nearly 10,000 people signed the petition. At $20 apiece, that would amount to $200,000, Best said.

County Manager Lee Smith said if supporters were willing to open their wallets it would help the project advance quicker. But he said it is difficult to know whether the petitioners would be willing to donate since most already pay taxes.

"Are they willing to do that?" Smith asked.

George Wolfe, a former county commissioner and the chairman of a task force assembled to advise the county on how to proceed with construction of a new shelter, compared the idea to asking parents who already pay taxes to contributing extra money to operate the county schools.

The commissioners are given taxing power by the state to pay for public services, Wolfe noted.

"Are we going to go out and do fundraisers for the police department? Are we going to go out and do fundraisers for the landfill," Wolfe asked.

Smith agreed that the county has the responsibility to tax residents for needed public projects. But he pointed to private groups that help the schools financially and said a similar group could be formed to aid the construction of the shelter.

"Look at the booster clubs at schools," Smith said. "You have band boosters and sports boosters that raise money for uniforms and benches and locker rooms. I look at the same thing for animal control. That is your booster club for animal control.

"If people really want it, I think they will come forward," Smith said.

Smith said the county should soon receive requests for specifics about the new shelter from architectural firms interested in bidding on the project. He said county officials hope a design can be approved in the spring.

The animal shelter is a priority for the commissioners, Smith said, but they also have other expensive issues on their plate -- school building needs and new voting machines top the list. Given those expected expenses, he said, any help with paying for a new animal shelter would be welcome.

"We're really hoping that the public will step forward," Smith said. "Those 10,000, we would love to see them step forward and help us financially."