With the basement of the DeKalb County courthouse crowded with supporters of a new animal shelter, the county commission voted Monday night to approve a second motion to pledge $75,000 toward the building of the facility after a similar motion failed.
Third District Commissioner Jack Barton made a motion at the monthly meeting of the commission that a request from the DeKalb Animal Coalition for the Humane Treatment of Animals that the county set the money aside for the building.
"This is to be a one-time donation of $75,000 by DeKalb County earmarked for the construction of an animal shelter by the DeKalb Animal Coalition. This donation is conditional. The county will not be responsible for the hiring and payroll of any employees relating to the shelter, and will not be responsible for any operation of the shelter or for the future funds needed to operate the shelter. Additionally, the coalition will pick up animals for the county when a request is made from the county mayor’s office or the sheriff’s department for a fee of $125 if it results in a successful pickup, or $75 if it’s a dead head, if they don’t successfully find the animal. The money is to be paid by the county to the coalition for those animals requested by the county mayor’s office and sheriff’s department only," Barton said in his motion.
The motion received a second from Fifth District Commissioner Jerry Adcock, but Sixth District Commissioner Betty Atnip voiced concerns that the county might have other priorities.
"I think what the coalition is about is an honorable thing," she said. "They are the voices for the animals that have no voice, but this county commission is for the people of the county, and we told them a month ago that we had to have money to run this county on. The coalition was not in our budget. We had heads of our departments who asked us for more employees to run their offices more efficiently, and we flat turned them down. We said no. We have had places that have asked us to build them a fire hall. We told them no. We did not have the money for that. If we don’t have the money to fulfill what the county is asking for, how do we have the money for an animal coalition that is a non-profit organization, and if we are going to give this non-profit organization a donation, are we going to start giving every non-profit organization that comes in front of this commission money? That’s where I stand in the sixth district. I represent them. I have a problem with telling the people that we had to have money to run the county on and then not fulfilling our county obligations before filling them for an organization."
With Joe Johnson absent, leaving a 13-person panel, a vote on the motion saw commissioners Bradley Hendrix, Jerry Adcock, Larry Summers, Jonathan Norris, Kevin Robinson, Jack Barton, and Anita Puckett vote their approval, while Jimmy Midgett, Jeff Barnes, Elmer Ellis, Jr., Mason Carter and Betty Atnip voted against the measure. Wayne Cantrell abstained, and the vote failed 7-5 with one abstention.
A 10-minute recess was called, however, when local attorney and coalition member Sue Puckett Jernigan, a member of the audience, asked County Attorney Hilton Conger to clarify how a vote to abstain is counted under Roberts Rules of Order. After a break to give Conger time to research the matter, he returned and told the assembly that the abstention was basically counted as a "no" vote.
Cantrell then asked if his vote could be changed, and was told by the city attorney that it could not be changed after the vote had been taken and announced.
Barton said he would then restate his motion for another vote, to which commissioner Larry Summers interjected, "Now, you know how I voted, but is this proper procedure?"
"It doesn’t sound proper to me," Atnip replied. "It’s already been up and voted on. Just because something doesn’t go the way somebody wanted it, we’re going to keep changing it?"
Conger informed the commissioners that the motion could not be re-entered, but a new, different motion could be entertained. "He can change his motion and introduce a new motion, but not the same motion," Conger said.
Barton then introduced a motion that varied from the first only in the amount that the shelter would receive from the county to pick up animals for the county when a request is made from the county mayor’s office or the sheriff’s department ($100) and to $50 if they fail to locate and pick up the animal. Seventh district member Kevin Robinson seconded the motion, but Atnip again said that she had problems with the idea.
"We increased your taxes by sixteen cents," she said. "We told them we had to have it to run this county on. We have told department heads no that have asked for other employees, part time and full time, which would have benefitted people in this county and given them jobs. We looked those people in the eyes and we told them no, we did not have the money. In another area for the safety of their property and their lives, we told people no to a fire hall, we do not have the money. Each and every time we are approached with something, we tell the people no, we don’t have the money for it. Now we have a non- profit organization coming and asking this county for money, and all of a sudden we’re going to find $75,000 to give away? Then we didn’t need (a tax increase of) sixteen cents to begin with. We only needed fourteen cents. I think that is doing a majority of the people wrong. It’s a majority of the people that put us in these seats. Not a handful of people. That’s the way I believe."
"I’ll also speak to the fact that I’m representing my district and my district seems to be in favor of this though I don’t take a poll every time I try and decide on an issue," Barton replied.
When a vote was called, Wayne Cantrell, Bradley Hendrix, Jerry Adcock, Larry Summers, Jonathan Norris, Kevin Robinson, Jack Barton, and Anita Puckett voting for the funding, while Jimmy Midgett, Jeff Barnes, Elmer Ellis, Jr., Mason Carter and Betty Atnip cast votes against the measure. It was adopted on an 8-5 vote.
"We need this, and it’s the right thing to do," coalition member Sue Puckett Jernigan said after the meeting.
The county’s contribution will be added to another $75,000 appropriated by the City of Smithville’s budget this year to fund the 1,752 square-foot facility, which will be built on property owned by the Smithville Industrial Development Board, property, owned by the Smithville Industrial Development Board, near the new solid waste transfer station behind Tenneco off Sparta Highway. The four-acre tract has been deeded to the city, which plans to sign a 99-year lease with the coalition.