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Local humane society meets grant deadline despite city, county disagreement

By ROBIN HART and ZAC OAKES

advocate@amnews.com

‘In the crosshairs’

Local humane society meets grant deadline despite city, county disagreement

 

By ROBIN HART and ZAC OAKES

advocate@amnews.com

The Danville/Boyle County Humane Society secured a state grant application at the last minute after the fiscal court stepped up to be the administrator of it. It also agreed to match the $2,500 grant funding after the Danville City Commission voted not to take on the administration responsibility at its meeting last week.

The commission voted to match the $2,500 grant without being involved with the actual administration of it because they felt that animal control, including the humane society, was the county’s responsibility last Monday evening.

However, at the fiscal court meeting Wednesday, County Judge-executive Howard Hunt said, “This has nothing to do with animal control.”

The county oversees the animal control agency, but not the humane society. The DBCHS is a separate agency that provides different services for local animals and is supported by the city and county, he said.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Boyle magistrates held a special-called, short notice meeting to hear Danville/Boyle County Humane Society President Fizzy Ramsey explain the grant application process what it’s used for.

That day, July 15, was the deadline to apply for money to help fund the DBCHS’s Happy Paws Spay/Neuter Clinic which will allocate the grant funds to provide free spay/neuter services for pit bulls, pit bull mixes and community cats, all of which are prone to sizable or frequent litters, Ramsey said.

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture sends the grant money to whatever municipality is the administrator – either the county or city – and they in turn match the funds and send it along to the clinic. “It does not matter” if it’s the city or county, she said. “I confirmed it at the state level.”

“The county had done it for the past two years,” Ramsey said. “We looked at the data from where these animals are coming from,” and they’re coming from both the city and county.

“We figured it would be fair – the humane society, not the county – we felt we’d be free to share the responsibility,” with the city this year, Ramsey said.

“They stated that they would give us $2,500 … but they did not want to be part of the administration of the state grant because … the explanation that I received is that it has to do with animals.”

Hunt asked, “So they don’t have any animal responsibility in the city?”

“I don’t know if I got that verbatim, but generally if it deals with animals it needs to go through the county,” Ramsey said that was her understanding of how city officials see the issue.

“Although it’s not a legal determination,” Hunt responded.

“I’m just caught in the crosshairs,” Ramsey said.

“I am going to state this for the fact as I understand … If the city commission voted to approve the award of $2,500 to be able to get this grant in gear, on advice from city council attorney, the mayor was advised not to sign it, even though the commission voted to approve the signing of it,” Hunt stated.

“Today is the last day the grant can be submitted to benefit all of the city of Danville and all of Boyle County. The city commission, or the city itself is not being responsive with their own stated approval of the application.”

Ramsey answered, “From my understanding, they wanted to give us the money, but they did not want it tied to administration of this grant.”

Magistrate Phil Sammons asked if it would be legal for the humane society to take the city’s money to match the grant, but not be involved with the administration of it.

County Treasurer Mary Conley answered, “No. If the county is going to be the … signer of the agreement, then we will be the ones receiving the grant funds and we will be required to match those grant funds. … We will take that responsibility on and we will be glad to do it.”

Hunt held up the unsigned contract the city had submitted and told the magistrates, “Gentlemen, this application is null and void. I don’t care how much money is behind it – without a signature.”

Hunt added, “I’m writing the city off on this deal … just play like they don’t even exist.”

Then he told Ramsey, “I will sign this and you will have your application money from the Boyle County Fiscal Court today.”

County Attorney Chris Herron said during the meeting he had been texting Danville City Attorney Stephen Dexter. “He said the city approved the money but they didn’t approve the mayor to sign it.”

“That’s kind of mixing the words a little bit isn’t it?” Hunt asked.

“Sounds like it also might be the mayor doesn’t have quite the authority to sign things that you do,” Magistrate Jason Cullen added.

However, Danville’s attorney saw the issue differently.

At the commission meeting on Monday Dexter said, “Statutorily, it is a requirement of a county to operate animal control. That is a county service requirement by law. It would be traditional that the county would be the partner in this organization (DBCHS) which is a joint nonprofit county function venture. Animal control is not a service function of the city. However, for whatever reason, the county chose not to participate this year and thought that the city should.”

Dexter explained that the city has typically supported the humane society through “various community grant funds” or special projects, such as when the new center was developed.

“The city has always been supportive of the humane society, while it has been the fiscal responsibility of the fiscal court to uphold their statutorily required duties,” Dexter said. “… It’s not frankly a precedent that the city should establish in assuming fiscal responsibility for the duty of another public agency.”

He added, “What I would be protective of against is standing in place of the county and being a matching partner for something they’re statutorily required to do,” Dexter said. “… It would be no different than the city requesting the county to match a grant for the Danville Police Department for special vests or equipment because the county could derive a benefit from that as well.”

This week Ramsey said, “I approached the city two weeks prior to the deadline requesting to be added to the agenda to discuss the grant, as I was looking for shared responsibility in spay/neuter efforts. I was unaware they could not administer such a grant, but do appreciate their life saving contribution.”