For this reason, a special meeting was held at Cherokee Village City Hall April 20 to address these concerns and debate possible alternatives.
The packed meeting was well attended by not only city council members, but also Animal Shelter representatives, volunteers and numerous members of the public who were eager to hear the options that were to be presented to the council.
Cherokee Village Police Chief Jason French presented the first proposal which is aimed at providing the city with more proactive animal control that is financially responsible to the citizen's of Cherokee Village.
French outlined a plan that would remove the facility's supervision from the police department and put it in the hands of the mayor. This would allow the animal control officer to focus solely on animal control issues. In order for this to occur, French recommends an additional fee to be added to Cherokee Village Water Department customer's water bills in the amount of $1.95 monthly with $1.70 going to the facility and the other .25 utilized for administrative costs by the water department for billing. City attorney Jon Abele said that the city can assess this fee on a bill without a vote from the people. This amount would provide $5,100 a month to provide the facility with a manager, administrative assistant and two kennel workers. This plan would also define hold times and allow the facility to retain the current donations that are received from pet food companies, as well as the many volunteers who work at the facility. This will also allow the organization to retain its current community support.
Cherokee Village Alderman Peter Martin voiced opposition to the tax portion of this potential plan. Martin felt it was unfair to further tax residents of Cherokee Village, many of whom may not own animals or are responsible pet owners.
The second proposal was made by Alderman Russ Stokes. Prior to hearing his recommendation, Stokes distributed a handout to the audience with relative information regarding the amount of volunteer hours, cash donations, food or material donations, fees collected and fundraising proceeds that were collected by the Shelter and not inclusive of cash donations received by the city.
Stokes' plan varied from that of French's in some aspects, while the goal of his proposition was to reduce costs to the city. His plan also proposed to taking the animal control officer out of the facility and removing her from the shelter and caring for the animals, an area where she is most experienced, but Stokes' plan did not include the additional water bill fee.
Stokes addressed the need to make the facility Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant by the construction of a ramp to the office and grading and improving the parking lot. A handicapped facility volunteer Linda Zimmermann said that she had to physically crawl to get into the facility for the last spay and neuter clinic for which she volunteered and that something needed to be done to accommodate people in wheelchairs.
Stokes' plan aims to separate the shelter and control aspects of the shelter and permit the facility's volunteers to create a new non-profit organization in which they could potentially obtain tax deductible donations. His plan further outlined the city would rent the current building to the facility for $100 yearly plus 10 percent of the animal supplies they would receive by donation while the city would pay all utility costs with the exception of the telephone bill.
In Alderman Stokes' plan, the Cherokee Village Police Department would be removed from the supervision responsibility of the facility and hire a salaried office manager. The current animal control officer would serve as a liaison between the facility and the mayor and city council. The process of feeding the animals at the shelter would be the sole responsibility of volunteers and donations.
In Stokes' plan, the cost incurred by the city will be reduced because the only animals that would be housed at the facility would be those the patrol officer obtained, due to such things as complaints. He further outlined that the only animals to be fed by the city, will be those animals that are licensed, aged, diseased or uncontrollable.
While agreeing to make the facility ADA compliant, the council tabled the vote on either proposal and all members agreed to come up with a third proposal which was a culmination of the previous two.
After the council had read their decisions, Helga Lange, part-time administrative assistant at the shelter explained to the public and the council the overwhelming success this shelter has experienced due in large to the numerous volunteers who work there. She further addressed the public on the importance of spaying and neutering and responsible pet ownership. Lange felt there should be more ordinances to punish those who do not abide by the laws governing animal ownership in the Village, rather than conducting this meeting regarding the essential "divorce" of the shelter from the police department.
The council voted to allocate an amount not to exceed $5,000 to build the handicap ramp and deck at the facility.