Fayette County needs help steering the bus

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The Fayette County Community Animal Taskforce (FCCAT) is requesting the immediate establishment of an Animal Shelter Improvement Steering Committee, to be officially recognized by the Fayette County Board of Commissioners.

The steering committee should be comprised of animal welfare/shelter subject matter experts (SMEs) from the community with equal appointment/approval authority of individuals by the County and FCCAT.

The Steering Committee will be charged with seeking appropriate actions for shelter improvements and additions without having any control over the allocation of taxpayer dollars to carry out those recommendations.

The Steering Committee will present their recommendations to the County Manager and Commissioners who are charged with overseeing the use of public taxpayer funds.

FCCAT has already demonstrated their value to the County based on the 31 May 2024 Animal Shelter Improvements email authored by Mr. Rapson and sent to interested citizens via Reggie Jordan, Assistant Director at the animal shelter.

The items annotated under “Evaluated and Implemented” were suggestions made by FCCAT members at an earlier meeting with Mr. Oddo, Mr. Rapson, and Mr. Jordan. (Most items under other titles came from that meeting as well.)

We acknowledge the opening of communication by the county and appreciate the time taken to compile email content and get it sent out. That said, there were some liberties taken with marking some actions as implemented and those will be brought to the attention of the Board of Commissioners soon.

The original proposal for animal shelter funding (2017) was $1 million. By the time the construction was completed and the new shelter opened (2024), the price tag had increased to $3.250 million – an increase of 325%!

Who was driving the bus up the steep incline of costs? Did commissioners question this project overage, ask for detailed explanation?

After efforts by animal advocates, SMEs, and FCCAT brought animal shelter construction and welfare issues to public light, it appears that the County will look at pulling monies from 2017 SPLOST funding (“FY2025 reallocation”) for necessary corrections.

Surprisingly, the County has listed an item in Under Evaluation in the email: “Hiring part-time dog walkers vs. volunteers.” This item’s inclusion further illustrates the need for a Steering Committee to help navigate the bus down a path of responsible expenditures of taxpayers’ dollars.

A recent sign-up for shelter volunteers yielded forty interested people. Additionally, shelter employees have dog walking in their job description. Why is there any consideration being given to spending money on personnel and not animal welfare and shelter corrections when walking the dogs can be covered by current staff and volunteers?  (One could speculate that this is a move to keep citizens out of the shelter.)

The shelter construction bus careened out of control as due diligence before and during construction was not done, no road map or clear direction.

As the Fayette County Shelter opened in April 2024, it became obvious to Fayette County citizens that the bus had been driven recklessly into a ditch.  An equally obvious realization is that neither the Board of Commissioners nor the County Manager have any intention of taking Dr. Staci Cannon (THE subject matter expert on all things shelter) up on her offer to visit, free of charge.

Dr. Cannon is the tow truck that could guide the bus, now buried tire-deep, out of the ditch.

The Fayette County Community Animal Taskforce is not focused on naming the entity “Steering Committee,” it just seems appropriate given the out-of-control course the funding has taken – no direction/due diligence.

FCCAT would be happy with any appropriate label the County would care to choose. Our focus is the establishment of said committee in a timely manner, preferably before the second Board of Commissioners’ Meeting in June 2024.

On behalf of the Fayette County Community Animal Taskforce:

Lynne Lasher

Peachtree City, Ga.