Animal Shelter

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 12, 2008

Mayor: county can co-own new shelter

By Jason C. Mattox and Billy Davis

The dogfight for a new animal shelter will need an Attorney General’s opinion to move closer to a resolution.

The Batesville Mayor and Board of Aldermen and Supervisors Gary Thompson and Kelly Morris as well as County Administrator Kelly Magee and outgoing administrator David Chandler met Wednesday morning and took another step toward determining the future of the proposed shelter.

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“We have been talking about a shelter for three years now, and it seems like we are finally getting close to making it a reality,” Mayor Jerry Autrey said.

Autrey said the major issue was an Attorney General’s opinion that said the county could not own an animal shelter, but the county had agreed to pay half of a 10-year note and half of the operating expenses.

Assistant City Attorney Colmon Mitchell told those city and county leaders that a new AG opinion said the county could own a shelter.

“We are going under the inter-local agreement to pay a certain percentage,” Chandler said. “We were going to set that at 50 percent.”

Chandler said the county needed accurate figures for construction and operation, but added that the county had budgeted $80,000 for the operations.

“If we are assured that you’re going to be providing half, we are good to go,” Ward 3 Alderman Stan Harrison said. “We just wanted to know that you were going to be right there with us.”

Ward 1 Alderman Bill Dugger reminded the board and supervisors that the city’s animal control officer could not go out into the county.

“The county will have to furnish their own animal control officer,” he said. “So we will continue paying ours and they can pay theirs.”

Chandler said he could see the possibility of conflict between the city and county if the facility is not jointly owned.

“I think it would work much better for all of us if we can get the project under one umbrella,” he said. “That way we know both entities will have equal say and it won’t just be the county contributing to the city’s animal shelter.”

Mitchell suggested requesting an Attorney General’s opinion specific to Batesville and Panola County.

“If you pursue an AG’s opinion, it will take at least a month to get it back,” he said. “But it would give us a clear solution to this situation.”

Supervisor president Gary Thompson said the county would request the Attorney General’s opinion.

“I think you would definitely have fewer problems if it is a joint venture,” he said.

No action was taken. Aldermen and supervisors will meet again once an Attorney General’s opinion is available.

In other board business:

•The city’s tax millage was set at 28.05. There was no increase.

•Aldermen adopted the budget for fiscal year 2009.

•The new plat for the proposed Zaxby’s near the Batesville Civic Center was accepted by the city.