Something new was added to the Blue Earth city animal shelter issue at last Monday night's City Council meeting and it caused a new round of an often heated debate.
The new proposal was for the formation of a joint powers commission which would oversee the animal shelter, hire a new animal control officer (ACO) and take care of financing the entire operation.
A rough draft of a joint powers agreement was given to the council members at the meeting. The cities of Blue Earth, Elmore and Winnebago, as well as the county sheriff's office, would be involved, with one member of each entity serving on the new commission. Councilman John Huisman was not happy with the plan.
"I have just one question," he said. "How does the humane society fit into this? What role do they have?"
The Faribault County Humane Society currently operates the animal shelter/pound under a contract with the city.
Mayor Rick Scholtes and police chief Tom Fletcher said it will be up to the joint powers board to decide who will do the operation of the animal shelter but that the ACO could be the one taking care of the animals.
"We would still want to work with the humane society to place the animals for adoption or in foster care after the impound period is over," Fletcher says. "No one wants to see animals put down."
Staci Thompson of the humane society, who was at the meeting, was visibly upset.
"No matter how you spin it, this means we are out of the pound," she says. "And there goes our income. I am so blown away by this. We asked to be part of creating these plans and were denied."
Scholtes said this was just a proposal and the council did not need to make a decision that night.
"But we need to decide which direction we want to take," he told the council. "One option is to keep the pound operating the way it is, for Blue Earth only, with a new contract with the humane society. The other option is to work with the sheriff and other cities in the county and jointly operate the pound and hire an ACO together."
If they work with the other entities, Scholtes says that will need to be with a joint powers agreement.
Several councilmen noted there is a need to hire an ACO and not have the police officers pick up animals.
"This (joint powers agreement) gets us an animal control officer," councilman Dan Brod said.
But, Huisman was not impressed.
"This thing needs to be totally reworked," he said. "It is just not acceptable the way it is. I think we need to table this until the next meeting so we have a chance to study it and have it redone."
Both Huisman and Brod agreed on one thing.
"We need to get something like this (proposed agreement) before 5:30 at the meeting," Brod said. Huisman agreed and added that the humane society was just getting a first look at it, as well.
The issue was put back on the agenda for the next council meeting.