Franklin Co. Commission Discusses NE Ga. Animal Shelter Funding

By MJ Kneiser, WLHR Radio, Lavonia

Members of the Northeast Georgia Animal Shelter board and staff walked away from a Franklin County Board of Commissioners work session last Thursday empty handed.

At the meeting Thursday morning, the Franklin County Commission took up the matter of adding another $25,000 in funding to the shelter, which would bring Franklin County in line with a 2010 funding agreement.

The shelter in Lavonia takes in stray and unwanted dogs and cats from Franklin and Hart counties as well as from numerous municipalities including Hartwell, Royston, Lavonia, and Carnesville.

Funding formulas were agreed upon at an intergovernmental meeting with the shelter board in January 2010.

According to the 2010 formula outlined Thursday by shelter board member Dr. Pam Stone, for Fiscal Year 2013, Franklin County owes $68,320.

However, Franklin County only budgeted $30,000 this fiscal year, but then kicked in another $13,000 over the summer by transferring monies from the Election Fund. That leaves a balance of $25,320 for the remainder of the fiscal year, according to county manager Billy Morse.

In earlier monthly meetings, Franklin County Commissioners Jeff Jacques and Charles Cawthon said the county must find a way to fully fund the shelter or risk losing its services.

Last Thursday, Jacques called the running of the shelter a model of efficiency, but told Stone and shelter director Sheri Lockhart that he does not see where that extra funding would come from.

Franklin County Commission Vice Chair Clint Harper questioned whether the county board had ever actually voted to fund the shelter at the formula discussed in 2010, to which Franklin County Manager Billy Morse told Harper that as far as he knew, Franklin County Commissioners had never voted on it.

Other commissioners, like Angela Whidby, suggested ways for the shelter to increase funding by raising adoption fees from the current $55 for dogs and $40 for cats, which includes a rabies vaccine and the animals’ spay or neuter at a local veterinarian.

Shelter manager Sheri Lockhart said the shelter turns adoption fees over to the local veterinarians to pay for the animals to be spayed or neutered and added that if that was done, the vets would want to charge more, so no extra funding would be gained.

Ultimately, Franklin County Commissioners took no vote on whether to add the extra $25,000 to the shelter funding and made no mention of when a decision on that might be made.