The McCracken Fiscal Court decided Monday to take the first step toward potential joint animal shelter and control operations with the Humane Society.
The court heard a report from animal shelter task force committee chairman Tim Davis on Monday night at the courthouse. Commissioners agreed to move forward and try to reach an agreement with the city and the McCracken County Humane Society. A group of about 15 residents wearing shirts adorned with the tagline "Build Don't Partner" also attended.
"Animals are an important part of our county and people take this very seriously," Davis said. "So make sure to take it seriously too."
Judge-Executive Van Newberry said Deputy-Judge Doug Harnice, City Manager Jeff Pederson, and members of the Humane Society Board of Directors would discuss terms of the potential merger. Newberry said he expects an agreement, if one can be reached, within 90 days.
After six meetings, the animal shelter task force voted 7-3 to recommended the McCracken County Humane Society as a viable partner for animal shelter and control operations during a meeting on April 16. If the city and county entered into an agreement, the Humane Society would build a new joint shelter similar to a model operation in Lexington.
Diana Cruikshank, a task force member who voted against the merger, spoke to the group about the Lexington model. She said the shelter is low-kill because the control and shelter operations are separate entities. Each year, of the 10,000 dogs that come into animal control, only 6,000 are reclaimed, fostered, rescued or adopted.
Newberry said the 40 percent kill rate is "certainly not something we would want."
The committee also made a secondary recommendation to build an independently run facility, with a separate board of directors to oversee fundraising, adoption activities and organization. The task force estimated the cost at $1.5 million to $1.9 million. Newberry said if an partnership cannot be agreed to, then the county would move to the secondary option of constructing a new shelter.
The task force passed a third independent motion requesting that the Fiscal Court focus on the issue of euthanasia during its decision-making process. Davis said during the meeting that the issue of euthanasia - specifically how to address aggressive, unadoptable animals - is the biggest concern of the public. He advised that it should be addressed with a comprehensive policy integrated within any partnership agreement.
The current shelter developed out of emergency circumstances in 2011, when the county cut ties with the McCracken County Humane Society and began operating its own facility on County Park Road.
The court also heard the second reading, public hearing and unanimously passed, with Commissioner Zana Renfro absent, the 2014-15 fiscal year $32,261,253 budget after hearing the first reading in mid-May.
The budget includes an increase in funding for the Emergency Communications Center of E-911, from $325,000 to $430,000. The court decided to budget a flat amount of $400,000 for animal shelter and control. Tiered raises for the jail and sheriff's departments at an estimated cost of $162,000, including Social Security and retirement costs, remained in the passed budget.
In other meeting business, the court passed a memorandum of understanding with Genova Products of Davison, Michigan, and the Greater Paducah Economic Development Council (GPEDC) to open a plastics manufacturing facility in the former Infiniti Plastics Technology building at 5400 Commerce Drive.
The company plans to bring 75 jobs within the first year and up to 125 jobs to the area.
John Hodges, Joint Sewer Agency (JSA) director, announced a rate adjustment from $4.35 to $4.43 per 1,000 gallons. For the average customer who uses 5,000 gallons per month, it will cost an extra 40 cents each month. JSA still ranks in the lower 35 percent in rates statewide, he said.