Phillips County's Animal Control Center will not open on Aug. 1 as originally anticipated and may be postponed indefinitely if funding cannot be collected.
Phillips County's Animal Control Center will not open on Aug. 1 as originally anticipated and may be postponed indefinitely if funding cannot be collected. “The shelter will not open Aug. 1, at the earliest Aug. 15 and Sep. 1 is more likely,” stated Doug Friedlander, executive director of the Phillips County Chamber of Commerce. “And then again it may not open on any of those dates, if we are not able to secure the funding that is needed.” According Friedlander, other resources are currently being sought but in order to properly allocate those funds, a resolution of support from the cities involved has been requested. According to the statement of support for the Phillips County Animal Center, additional funds are needed for the full operation of the animal control center beyond those currently available from the participating municipalities. Councilman Jay Hollowell recalled that a proposal for a countywide animal control center presented by County Judge Don Gentry and the mayors of the county's incorporated communities in 2011designated 21 kennels for Helena-West Helena. That, said Hollowell, has changed. Friedlander said the original plan called for 45 kennels but in the end it can only accommodate 20. “The funding is short right now so we're not even sure that we will be able to operate 20 kennels simultaneously,” explained Friedlander. Friedlander stated that even with the shortened kennel space, 10 kennels would take an estimated 500 animals a year off the streets “The key thing here is that we have secured a number of grants including a grant from the USDA and it is important for us to make a big faith effort to try to open it and not be obligated to repay the funds,” commented Friedlander. Hollowell stated that he didn't see a problem with supporting the resolution however he didn't agree with the in-kind support that the city would provide a truck and two full-time employees to pick up the animals throughout the county on a 10- kennel operation. According to Friedlander the city of Helena West Helena has not fulfilled its financial commitment and that is why the other additional resources are being sought. “Right now we have zero animal control and this is what we have to go on,” said Friedlander. Hollowell interjected that the Humane Society of the Delta has and is currently picking up animals when they can, based only on donations and the goodness of their hearts and the generosity of a no-kill animal shelter. “The Humane Society cannot come close to fulfilling the animal control needs in this city, the county or any other city within the county as a whole, so they are in support of the project,” added Friedlander. Hollowell said his concern as an alderman is that the city is already struggling to make ends meet and the extra expenses of providing two full-time employees from the street department that is already short handed, a truck, which will require insurance and the cost of gas to cover all cities incorporated in the project will exceed the 10-kennel operation proposed. “It doesn't make sense gas wise to fill up the 10 kennels that will be filled up quite quickly due to the coverage of the surrounding areas,” stated Hollowell. Friedlander stated that the city has backed out of the agreement that would hold the individual center employees responsible for the feeding and cleaning of the animals and the city in-kind has not put in nearly enough time. “The cities have agreed that they only need someone to pick up the animals,” said Friedlander. “They wont be obligated to care for the animals and they will be at the disposable of the street department and will only be committed to half of the original proposed agreement. In turn the city has not had to put forth a dime.” According to Friedlander every other incorporated city involved in the project has put forth $4 per population for one or more years that went to the construction of the facility. “The grant funding was never designated to cover the complete operation of the facility,” explained Friedlander. Friedlander went on to say that there are only 10 kennels to be filled and once they are filled the center employees would stop picking up dogs until those kennels are ready to be filled again, as proposed. The council passed the resolution in support of additional resources being sought for funding the project.