Animal Shelter

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 23, 2009

Dogged effort to build animal shelter gains ground at meet

By Billy Davis

The undermanned but unyielding members of the Panola County Humane Society, who have been urging construction of an animal shelter for several years, have now heard the most positive news to date.

Final plans for a shelter, including final drawings and a request for bids, may be only three months away.

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The building will be located inside Batesville, along Highway 51 South, on land jointly owned by the city and county. 

The next step rests with Southaven architect Marvin Johnson, who departed a special called meeting Wednesday with orders to shrink the square footage of his proposed 5,500-square-foot building.

Johnson also heard instructions from Batesville’s mayor and aldermen, and from county supervisors, to quickly produce a contract for his work.

“We need to get this bidded out,” urged Alderman-at-Large Teddy Morrow. 

The public officials said Wednesday they hope to build the shelter for about $400,000 and split that cost evenly. Panola County government intends to contribute $80,000 annually for operations.

Johnson said the weakened economy has created a “buyer’s market,” and he suggested that a “plain Jane” building could be constructed at a cost of $80 a square foot. That total cost would be $440,000.

But Mayor Jerry Autrey and others pressed for cost-saving measures, beginning with shrinking the size of the building.

Johnson also heard Supervisor Kelly Morris suggest that the architect investigate the cost-savings of incorporating a sloping roof instead of a traditional hip roof.

In the early minutes of the joint meeting, Johnson recollected that he first began work on a Batesville shelter in October, 2004, framing for those present the years that have come and gone.  

“I have to tell you that I’ve got conflicting information, so I have to know who’s driving the train,” Johnson said. 

Responding to Johnson’s question, Alderman Bobbie Jean Pounders replied that the City of Batesville and Panola County government have agreed to work together on the project.

“That’s my understanding,” she said. “Am I right?”

“Yes,” replied Supervisor Bubba Waldrup.

Pounders moderated the approximate one-hour meeting, held at Batesville City Hall, where she called on Johnson and others to describe the plans and problems of operating an animal shelter.

“We have worked really, really hard and have nobody helping us,” Humane Society president Kim Strickland told the assembly.

Despite few volunteers and little money, Strickland said the local humane society has adopted 230 dogs from the city pound.

“Of the dogs we’ve rescued, less than 10 percent had to be euthanized in 2008,” said Strickland, who fought back tears as she described ongoing efforts to rescue more animals.

The assembled crowd also heard from Cyd Dunlap of the Oxford-Lafayette Humane Society.

The Oxford shelter took in 707 animals from Panola County in 2008, which numbered second behind Lafayette County itself, she said.

“Obviously it would help us greatly if you build a shelter,” she said.

Dunlap also rattled off salaries of full- and part-time employees, and the Oxford shelter’s approximate annual budget of $250,000. 

The City of Oxford contributes $120,000 annually, she said. Lafayette County government gives $20,000.

Dunlap said the Oxford shelter has begun a capital campaign to construct a 4,600-square-foot shelter to replace its current 1,300-square-foot building.

Strickland said the Batesville-Panola County shelter will not be an “open shelter,” meaning it will not accept animals from outside Panola County.

Other related issues covered at the meeting included disposal of euthanized animals, vet bills, and the role of volunteers.

County supervisors and Administrator Kelley Magee also discussed a county ordinance to address stray dogs, and the hiring of an animal control officer for the county.

“I can tell you the public is tired of hearing that we’re building a shelter,” Humane Society member Candy Hopper told the gathering.