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February 28, 2013

Animal shelter split with Clark County coming Monday, barring agreement

Jeffersonville offers solution, but county balks; Kennel to take in animals

JEFFERSONVILLE — The city of Jeffersonville has extended a new offer to solve a dispute with Clark County over funding the J.B. Ogle Animal Shelter, but a county commissioner says the board is not interested.

According to a letter sent to the Clark County Commissioners by Mayor Mike Moore, the city would agree to a settlement of unpaid fees by the county to the shelter of $125,000.

“There are no conditions attached to this offer, which was the essence of the compromise between myself and the commissioners for the service provided,” Moore wrote.

Jeffersonville has been seeking money owed to the shelter from Clark County from 2010-12. Each year, the county’s portion of a payment totaled $66,150 to provide shelter for stray or unwanted animals.

But the city owes the county money for leasing space in the Clark County Government Building’s basement. From at least 2010-12, Jeffersonville owes the county about $45,000 for the storage space in the county building.

The proposal offered in the letter subtracted the money owed to the county by Jeffersonville, and requested the payment from the county for the years overdue.

“We believe it’s a fair offer considering they haven’t been paying city,” said City Attorney Les Merkley. “We understand that they’re financially strapped, but they need to pay their bills.”

The interlocal agreement that was in place between the county and the city was more than 20 years old. In addition to the county, Sellersburg, Charlestown, Clarksville, Utica and Borden all pay annual fees to the shelter for taking in the animals. Even with several extensions to the deal, the language in the contract did not extend past 1999. However, the other municipalities are paid up-to-date, except for Clark County.

“We don’t have a debt because we don’t have an agreement,” said Clark County Commissioner Rick Stephenson.

He added that while there is not an agreement on paper, there is a moral obligation to the animals.

Merkley pointed to a provision that Stephenson said existed regarding the removal of former Mayor Tom Galligan from his position as president of the Clark County Board of Aviation Commissioners as part of the previous deal regarding county payments for the shelter.

Moore denied it was ever part of any of the previous negotiations with the commissioners.

“I have no issue with your appointments to the Clark County Airport Board and frankly, [I] have no desire to do the county’s business,” he wrote in the letter.

With that provision no longer in play, Merkley said Stephenson had claimed he was OK with everything else in the agreement to pay the county $125,000. Stephenson said he was OK with the payment, if the $125,000 would include the money owed for this year.

“I have told him I would give him $125,000, but it would have to include this year,” he said. “I can’t get any more money out of the County Council ... they just don’t have it.”

When Moore was asked if he would agree to that deal he said, “absolutely not.”

Merkley said in the most recent pact offered to the county, the previous amount of $66,150 would be due to the city for 2013, while a new interlocal agreement with all of the entities involved was negotiated.

Stephenson said if the county had kept up with the payments when Moore was a commissioner, it wouldn’t be in this position it is today.

“I’m not going to be able to get any more money this year,” he said. “This should have been solved years ago. We’re not going to be strong-armed in the way were going to do it. I’m tired of bickering with him.”

If an agreement is not reached by Monday, Moore and Stephenson agree the county and the city’s partnership will end.

Stephenson said starting Monday, residents of the unincorporated areas of Clark County will be able to take animals to Dogwood Inn Kennels off Ind. 62

“All the money we don’t pay in the interim by not going to Jeffersonville will come off the table,” he said. “It will come out of the $125,000.”

Stephenson said there are about 100 kennels available at the site and the kennel has assured the county it will be able to handle its capacity with no issues.

“I wish the county luck,” Moore said. “It will be less of a burden for us, our cost will go down because we don’t have the county’s costs in there.”

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