All the presentations, campaigning and cross-campaigning is behind them, and now it is in the hands of the three Lincoln County Commissioners to decide who will run the Lincoln County Animal Shelter. Will it be the county sheriff’s office or Friends of the Lincoln County Animal Shelter, or FOLCAS? The sheriff’s office has been running it since 2009 after a small property tax override was passed by the voters to keep it open pending a final operations plan by the county commission. FOLCAS has been helping with support for pet vaccinations and neutering services.
Over the past year, as the issue has heated up, Sheriff Dennis Dotson contends his office should continue running the shelter because only a public entity can guarantee consistent and accountable animal shelter services. Dotson contends that the animal shelter is too important a county function to be turned over to an “untested non-profit.”
FOLCAS board member Bill Hume counters that non-profits operate thousands of animal shelters nationwide, many in Oregon, and they do it for far less cost to the taxpayers. He said it’s because non-profits can accept tax deductible contributions from the public, from animal welfare foundations and other sources, which government agencies cannot. Hume said although the sheriff’s office has done a commendable job of recruiting volunteers, FOLCAS has, as well. He said their thrift store at the fairgrounds is proof of FOLCAS’s power to empower volunteers and to raise money for animal services.
While Sheriff Dotson says he expects salary ranges and benefit packages for animal shelter workers to continue under his department’s management scenario, it would not under FOLCAS’s plans. FOLCAS spokesman Bill Hume said FOLCAS would continue salaries for animal shelter workers at their present levels but not their benefit packages due to their high cost. However, a benefits package would be offered.
County Commissioners say their dilemma is trying to weigh arguments from both sides while also keeping their eyes on a looming large issue – county employee costs – which are rising very fast, largely due to benefit costs. The Commissioners also asked both sides how either one would cope with the loss of the revenue from the property tax override if the voters said no to its renewal in 2014. Both sides were non-committal but added they would analyze such a situation and report back to the commissioners as soon as possible.
County Commissioners said it will be a difficult decision to pick one side or the other since the issue is emotional, political as well as financial. They say they’ll try to make their decision after further discussions are held October 12th starting at 10:30am in the county commission chambers at the courthouse on east Olive Street. After the discussions, Commission Chair Terry Thompson will say, “I hereby entertain a motion….”