Chesterton Tribune

Advisory board looks to start fundraising for new animal shelter

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Members of the Porter County Animal Shelter Advisory Board are eager to begin taking donations for a new shelter.

All they need now is a plan.

At a meeting Wednesday to address fundraising, Board member Laura Blaney said she met with County Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, and believes they will be able to find $1 million in the county’s coffers for a facility to replace the undersized shelter and have the rest of the tab be picked up by donations and grants.

Blaney said the important thing to do now is to keep moving in steps towards raising the money needed, but conceded the process will take time.

“Let’s start thinking about fundraising,” she said.

The shelter has set up a method to receive contributions through the Porter County Community Foundation to assist the shelter with its daily needs. Board president Toni Bianchi said a separate fund should be set up strictly to accumulate funds for new shelter construction.

Blaney said a private donor has come forward offering to match any donation made up to a certain amount.

Before the board officially gets started on a fundraising effort, Bianchi felt it best to announce a target amount of how much they wish to collect but the figure of how much is needed is still unknown because no definite blueprints for the future building have been developed.

A review by the California-based Shelter Planners of America released in late April suggested a total price of $2.92 million for a new shelter ($2.3 million for construction with another $600,000 for permits, worker costs and contingency). But Blaney, who also serves on the county council as an at-large member, said the county will probably plan for a lesser figure, saying $3 million is “too much.”

Shelter Director Jon Thomas said the Shelter Planners report did not account for amenities the new shelter will need and he found other suggestions he did not agree with.

Regardless of the differences, the board made a favorable recommendation to the county commissioners, saying they support the plan although “tweaks could be made,” and urged forging ahead with having Shelter Planners complete a floor plan, which Blaney said is already included in the $6,500 the county paid the firm to do the initial study.

The board made the push to establish a fundraising committee that would include not just shelter board members but individuals with a talent for raising money.

“We need somebody with great organizational skills,” Blaney said.

Board member Ella Holst who is in charge of marketing for the board provided a list of shelter fundraising ideas which includes sponsoring specific pets, sponsoring classes or workshops, partnering with a local marketing firm, participating in community events or anything that would move the county closer to seeing a new shelter.

“I want it to be done as soon as possible but as good as possible,” said Holst.

Bianchi offered a few of her own ideas such as raising money through licensing dogs but fellow board member Patrick Cassin said the state may have certain regulations on that and the board should check those policies first.

From the audience, residents Maredith Reggie of Kouts and Linda Canfield of Jackson Twp. asked if the board would be casting aside the suggestion made by Shelter Planners to work with another agency on handling the overflow of animals and euthanizing animals which could not be helped. Canfield questioned what the vote to support the Shelters Planner report meant since the board has not sought private/public relationship as the report suggests.

Blaney said “nothing is off the table yet” but the board is advisory and all final decisions would be made by the county commissioners. Bianchi said the board’s vote to support the report was to continue with the floor plan, not to abide by its every recommendation.

“We’re just moving forward. We’re not saying we love everything in (the report),” Bianchi said.

Thomas added that he did not see the reasoning behind a second facility to house animals since he feels he can handle overflows by means of spay/neuter programs, educating the public on pet care and hard work.

“I believe it can be done,” said Thomas.

Reggie and Canfield said the shelter provides regular reports to the public on how many animals it takes in, how many are being let out and if any animals are being disposed of. Reggie said the numbers would be important in planning for the new shelter and advocated having them readily available for public view, such as on the shelter’s Facebook page.

In a separate matter, Thomas reported the number of dogs removed from a hoarding situation in Westchester Twp. being cared for at the shelter is down to 15. He said it is “a very strong goal” of his to have the all the dogs be adopted within the next 30 days. A few of the dogs will be taken in by surrounding pet adoption agencies.

The shelter has also “become inundated with kittens” recently, Thomas said, and would like to start an aggressive promotion for them to be adopted.

Evans told the Tribune Thursday he agrees with the board’s action to ask Shelter Planners to complete a floor plan and affirmed the new price will likely be less than $3 million, using local companies to do the construction. He said the private entity willing to match donations, who he would not identify at this time, will be a great benefit to the fundraising effort.


Posted 6/7/2012