The Humane Society of Richmond County may not turn the animal shelter over to the county government at the end of October, as was announced by the Humane Society last week.
According to Humane Society Board Chair Evonne Swanson, the Humane Society Board will meet Monday evening to discuss whether or not alternative plans are possible.
“I’ve sent out a letter to the board saying we are going to convene,” said Swanson on Friday. “We’ve heard concerns from the county and we are doing our best to work with the county. We’d like to continue operating the shelter.”
In a meeting last week, the Humane Society board voted unanimously to cease shelter operations as of Oct. 31, 2012, according to Director Valerie Davis. Although Davis and Swanson both said at the end of last week that the Humane Society’s plans to withdraw from the shelter had been finalized, a letter from Humane Society Attorney Kelly G. Williams to county officials hinted at other options.
The letter to county officials read, “It has become painfully obvious to the Humane Society of Richmond County, Inc. that it can no longer operate its animal shelter under the current income/expense projections for 2012 through 2013.”
However, toward the end of the letter, Williams wrote, “Time is of the essence for the Humane Society to restructure its income base. If the Society has not received firm commitments from the local governments by October 31, 2012, it will be forced to close its shelter and dissolve its corporation.”
According to the letter, the shelter could stay open with monetary contributions from local municipalities each month. Proposed allocations include $300 from Dobbins Heights, $500 from the Town of Ellerbe, $800 from the City of Hamlet, $250 from the Town of Hoffman, $100 from the Town of Norman, $1,000 from the City of Rockingham and $22,000 from Richmond County.
County officials said they were disappointed with the letter they received Sept. 21 from the Humane Society’s attorney, because the letter didn’t offer any solutions to the shelter’s problems, instead the letter asked for money and gave an ultimatum.
“The letter gave no solutions to the problem apart from ‘open your checkbook,’” said Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Kenneth Robinette. “I want this thing resolved for everyone but money isn’t always the answer. Those responsible need to be held accountable. The county should not be threatened or given an ultimatum.”
“I thought I was getting a letter that outlined options, like things they wanted the county to do to the building or anything else,” said County Manager Rick Sago. “That’s not asking me for help, it’s slapping me in the face, but the talks are going better now. We want them to get where they need to be. We are in discussion with them in good faith. I can’t ask the taxpayers to put more money in it. These are tight economic times, and we are doing everything we can.”
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at email@example.com.