By David Howell
WATER VALLEY – After fielding a request in October from Second Chance Animal Alliance (SCAA) officials to build an animal shelter on county-owned property adjacent to the jail on Hwy. 32, county officials hashed out the legal ramifications following a report from Board Attorney John Crow during a recessed supervisors meeting held late last month at the Coffeeville courthouse.
Crow explained that the money SCAA has budgeted to build to shelter would have to flow through the county in an agreement between the entities.
“They have a donor, as y’all know, that is going to give them some money to build a shelter,” Crow said, adding that the proposed location triggered the issues because the land is owned by the county.
“The money would be in our hands and we would bid it out. We would make sure the construction costs would be in the budget,” the attorney said about a potential agreement that would allow the SCAA money to flow through the county.
“There can’t be a dual ownership. If it is on county property, then you are going to be triggering all statutes that are involved in connection with construction,” the attorney also advised. Citing an example, Crow explained that if the construction costs exceed $50,000, the county would have to hire an engineer and architect for the job.
In October SCAA volunteer Mandy Beard explained the organization had identified the county property on Hwy. 32 as an ideal location, citing the nearby law enforcement presence and highway visibility. Beard also explained that SCAA volunteers would continue to staff the facility and were not asking the county to have hands-on involvement with the shelter.
Supervisors tentatively agreed to the request, pursuant to legal advice that Crow delivered after researching the matter.
“When the government owns something, it’s a lot of red tape,” Crow said, summing up the situation. He also reminded supervisors that currently the SCAA only contracts with the City of Water Valley to house neglected or abandoned dogs picked up in the city.
“We have already told them that we would be willing to help them,” Board President Cayce Washington said following the attorney’s report.
“If we don’t take action today, how many more meetings are we going to have where we talk about it?” District 3 Supervisor Lee McMinn asked.
“Is it still just Water Valley dogs?” District 5 Supervisor Gaylon Gray asked. “They (SCAA) are not going to take dogs in the county?”
“But with the county involved, you enlarge it,” Crow said about the county and city working out an agreement with SCAA to house dogs picked up in the county as part of an agreement to provide the land for the shelter.
“If we are going to be willing to donate land to them, I would like to think they would be willing to help with county dogs. But I don’t guess they are under any obligation,” Washington said.
“You can’t donate it to them,” Gray reminded Washington.
“There is no statute on that,” Crow reiterated, referring to legal authority that would permit the donation of county property to the non-profit agency.
“I feel like we have a responsibility as a county,” McMinn said. “We have these volunteers that are willing to give their time and have been for years now. Why can we not just consider that we are going to make a contribution to this effort, as we should as a county, and come into some kind of agreement with the city and get the building constructed.”
McMinn also said a nice shelter could be constructed for less than $50,000, which eliminates the added expense of paying an architect and engineer.
“We could do the building and fence, and maybe in a year or two, spend some more money to add on to it,” McMinn suggested.
The discussion on the matter then came to a close after Crow agreed to discuss the county’s options with SCAA volunteers and report back to the board on Dec. 6.