Chesterton Tribune

Shelter board wants to move forward with new building despite talk of PAWS partnership

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News of Porter County officials intentions to consider a potential private/public partnership between the county and the non-profit Lakeshore PAWS to handle operations at the future animal shelter has a few members of the shelter advisory board worried that talks may actually delay construction of a new building.

Board members Rachael Jones, Ella Holst and Dawn Garmon gathered at a special meeting Wednesday saying that communication needs to improve between the board, the commissioners and members of the public if a new shelter building is ever to become a reality.

"Right now, my biggest concern is that this (partnering talk) again puts off building a new shelter even further," said Holst.

In the short time since discussions with Lakeshore PAWS were announced, questions have sprung up regarding whether privatizing the animal shelter would be the right move, since raising funds to build a multi-million dollar shelter will be a difficult feat. More questions surround what the county has in mind for the current shelter, which might be used by the countys animal control unit.

Garmon said it is important questions are asked and emphasized the importance of noting that none of these issues have been seriously considered yet.

She and the other two members said they have not been included in any of the partnering discussions and commented on how quickly these discussions transpired without notice.

"I just dont know if this has been thought through properly. Its going too fast," said Jones.

The board looks to host a meeting next week where they plan to talk with Lakeshore PAWS president Jeanne Sommer and address their questions. The meeting is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, July 5, at 5 p.m. in Room 307 of the Porter County Administration Building.

Sommer, who resigned from the shelter board a couple weeks ago due to time commitment issues, took questions from the county council this week, saying she plans for the new shelter to be no kill while animal control will continue to be county controlled. The conversations are in the infancy stages, she said, and agreed to keep the board updated on progress.

Council President Dan Whitten, D-at large, said there are other possibilities out there still worth exploring.

The Shelter board echoed the plea to keep their minds open to all possibilities. "We all need to be looking at whats best," Jones said.

Meanwhile Holst advocated forging ahead with the second phase of getting a design for the new shelter with Shelter Planners of America, but said the effort has been plagued with communication problems. This week she made contact with Bill Meade, the planning and design director for Shelter Planner who wrote the feasibility report for a new shelter, and was advised he had not received any communication from the county asking him to continue with the next step.

In order for that to begin, Meade would need approval of the building program, which was outlined in the report, as well as authorization to proceed with the floor plan.


Posted 6/29/2012