By Heather Mullinix
A local woman wants to raise funds to build a new animal shelter for the county, but the building and grounds committee of the Cumberland County Commission has questions about how public donations for that purpose would need to be handled.
"We're at capacity continually, but we've got an issue that's a little deeper than that," Cumberland County Mayor Kenneth Carey told the committee April 17. "We need a place to use for quarantine facilities."
Carey said a new facility for the animal shelter on East Lane Rd. was part of the county's five-year plan. If a new facility were built on the property, the existing building could be used to quarantine sick animals or new animals coming in that need to be kept away from the other animals for a time. That will help the county continue to transport animals to rescues around the country.
Linda Shepherd told the panel she's set a goal of $100,000, but she doesn't know how long it will take to raise that amount.
"They think they can be very successful in helping to raise money to fund this building to get it constructed quicker than we probably can through the county process," Carey said. "They're only issue is they wanted to make sure the funds would not be put back into the general fund if it took more than one fiscal year."
Carey said the county finance department has said it is possible to designate those funds to roll it over year to year.
"We're here to ask you your permission to allow this fundraising effort on behalf of the county's animal shelter," Carey said.
Shepherd said, "If, within a year, we didn't hit that mark, we thought we might could do an alternative...I just want to do it right so that we don't get into any kind of trouble with the county.
"We really need something. All it takes is one sick animal."
She said the first time she had visited the shelter was in November. Between then and March, all the kittens and cats had to be euthanized on two occasions due to sickness.
Big dogs have no shelter at the facility, she added, and that was a need that a new facility would address.
Andrea Gaskins, director of the animal shelter, said people are often asking how they can donate to the animal shelter for a new shelter. However, any funds donated are put into the county's general fund.
Shepherd said, "We just want to take care of them. I know you all don't have the money. We're not asking you for money. We're just asking you for help."
Sonya Rimmer, 8th District commissioner, asked, "What happens to that money if, after six or eight months, you decided you don't want to do this anymore?"
Shepherd said she would not grow tired of the project, but added, "You have this money that's designated. You can do something to improve the animal shelter."
Mike Harvel, 7th District commissioner and assistant director of Cumberland County Solid Waste and Recycling Center overseeing animal control, said, "We need a place to drop of animals that we bring in. They are mostly abandoned dogs. They've got everything in the world wrong with them. We need two places so we don't make the whole bunch sick.
"In two years, we're going to build something out there. If you go out there, you'll understand what I'm saying. I don't see it staying there two more years the way it is. It's pitiful. When Linda called me, I was tickled to death someone wanted to try and help us because I know the need is there for a building."
County Attorney Randal Boston said agreements had been made with non-profit organizations in the past, but this would not be a non-profit organization but citizens raising funds to be designated by the county for a new facility.
Rimmer said the committee would need to determine the best way to handle the finances, but she believed there was interest on the panel to pursue the project. The committee will meet again in the next few weeks, Rimmer said.