County Manager Scott to Humane Society, "We need to help you with animal control
COLUMBIA COUNTY/ LAKE CITY, FL – Yesterday morning at 11 am Commissioner Bucky Nash's hand-picked AnimalControl/Humane Society committee met. The task: come up with the amount of emergency funding necessary to keep the Lake City Humane Society in the animal control business for Columbiay, minus Lake City. The city of Lake City negotiates separately with the Humane Society for Animal Control. Historic poor relations and an almost total inability for the City and the County to get along and develop any shared services agreements has kept the Humane Society in separate City-County budget negotiations for decades.
County Manager Ben Scott got straight to the point. The County's hard line has softened, "We looked at the annual audit. We're saying we need to help you with animal control."
Mr. Scott said that with the financial information he received from the Humane Society he could not determine how much was being spent for animal control and how much was being spent on the Humane Society side of the equation.
Mr. Scott asked to see a breakout of the employees and how their pay was being accounted for. He asked, "What were their titles? What were they doing?"
He continued, "Why are we going from $510,000 for both organizations (animal control and Humane Society combined) to $500,000 for just animal control? I am looking for what is causing animal control to cost as much as both organizations cost before?"
"Without having more detailed information, I can't go to the Board [the County 5] and say, 'I recommend you give more money.'"
Humane Society/Animal Control Executive Director Laura Page said, "Typically for non-profits, the majority of labor is volunteers. The payroll is almost 100% animal services."
Ms. Page explained that almost anything that had to do with animal control required a "license or certification." She said, "'That's going to be anywhere you go."
Mr. Scott followed up, "If I could analyze that, I'd be glad to. But I can't."
Todd Sampson, Humane Society president said, "If we provide you with the raw data, could you split it? You always had a problem getting split data. There's a reason for that."
Mr. Sampson explained that in the past, "They didn't track split data. It's all in one lump; they never cash-flowed it... We have this data in the raw. We have the receipts. The problem is having someone to split it. We don't' have someone who can do that. If you can do that here, we could bring the raw data."
He continued, "One of the reasons we found out about the shortfall in animal control is because I tasked Laura with separating the costs to see what our real cost is. When we split out the numbers, that's when we realized that the overwhelming majority of the cost is on the County and the contract with the County [animal control]."
Mr. Sampson explained that in March of 2016, Animal Control had 399 calls in the County. "We can now show you that. Previously, we couldn't, which is why the numbers weren't being provided to Dale [former County Manager, Dale Williams]."
County Manager Scott: "I can do the analysis."
Mr. Scott, "If you can give me your QuickBooks files, I can do the analysis from that."
Mr. Sampson joked, "We may have a new accountant."
Your reporter asked, "My understanding is that at the May 5 meeting you are to come back to the Board with a recommendation for emergency funding?"
Mr. Scott answered that he can do that if he gets the information and goes through it.
It was reported to the Observer that Mr. Scott picked up a thumb drive of QuickBooks information from the Humane Society yesterday afternoon.
On Thursday May 5, at 5:30 pm, the County 5 meet. The community may discover Mr. Scott's recommendation regarding emergency funding for animal control and a possible extension of their contract for animal control services.
The Humane Society and Columbia County, not including Lake City, are looking to enter into a contract (in reality, a private-public partnership) for animal control services. The Humane Society has stated that many of its workers are at minimum wage ($8.05), which is poverty level wages and receive no benefits.
Presently, a barely livable wage is $11.66 per hour.
The Humane Society advocates for humane treatment of the animals.
It is not clear if either they, or the County, will advocate for the human treatment of the workers, i.e., for a barely livable wage.
Why don't you put a simple ad out see how many volunteers would be willing to donate some time for free? There are plenty of people willing to work for minimum in this area who don't have jobs as well. We shouldn't be trying to soak the animal shelter for more raises when they can barely stand on their own. Why don't we set up fund raisers? The fair is coming up. I always see they have customer appreciation day with a free day during all of that. Why can't they say, "Customer Appreciation day, free with a can or bag of dog food."
Lake City Humane Society, a private nonprofit organization, was formed in late 1964 to address animal welfare issues in our community. There was no animal shelter, and little attention was paid to the hundreds, if not thousands of animals that were picked up off the streets and killed if no one came to claim them.One city employee – the “dog catcher” was hired to catch and dispose of stray and unclaimed dogs in our area.