County Commission and Humane Society go head to head with new funding contract
THOMAS COUNTY, Ga. (WCTV) - The Thomas County Humane Society is at risk of losing its contract with the county after months of negotiations have deadlocked.
Humane society director Chandler Giddes says negotiations began back in June when the humane society presented commissioners with a funding proposal for the next 10-year contract. However, the two parties failed to come to an agreement.
“Our operating budget for a year is just over a million dollars, and we only receive about $350,000 from the county. We were just hoping to get a little bit closer in those costs and in those expectations,” said Giddes. “I’m still hopeful that we can come back to the table, but the conversations as of late have not gone very well.”
The county is contracted to provide 4.5% of its budget to animal services, but Giddes says they’ve only ever received about 3.2% of that funding in this current 10-year contract.
In the updated contract, Giddes says the humane society was asking for a 1% increase to the funding already offered, which would be about $150,000-$200,000 more. Giddes says the county declined.
If county commissioners and the humane society can not come to an agreement, this would end the 29-year relationship between the two organizations, and close out the current 10-year contract. Officials shared that services will also change drastically for the humane society.
“Without this contractual obligation, the number of animals that we’re able to touch and care for is going to reduce, and ultimately we believe that that’s going to result in a higher loss of life for those animals,” Giddes said.
The county is obligated to provide animal services to the community, if the contract with the Thomas County Humane society ends, the county will still have to provide those services through a different avenue.
“We know that we can provide a high level of service that’s really centered around life-saving and solving some of the problems that exist in this community. Unfortunately, I think ultimately our mission and the county’s mission differ in what life-saving looks like and what those services are comprised of,” said Giddes.
After watching our broadcast, county manager Michael Stephenson reached out to WCTV and said some of the claims from the Humane Society are not true.
While he agrees that negotiations have been ongoing since the summer, he says the funding increase the shelter asked the county for is way more than 1%. However, it isn’t just the money that’s keeping the two organizations at odds.
“The Humane Society is proposing no representation on their board, and the other problem was, in addition to the 100-percent funding that they were requesting they were obligating the county to pay all the cost overrun. Which to us looked like a blank check,” said Stephenson.
According to Stephenson, in a proposal sent to the humane society in October, the county requested 40 percent of representation on the humane society’s board of directors.
“We provide 40% of the humane society’s funding,” he said.
Officials say the county also offered to increase the county’s payout to the humane society from 70% of their allotted funds, to 90% of the funds designated for animal services with the remainder of the 10% stored in a secured account for emergencies. Stephenson says the humane society shot it down.
The counteroffer provided to the county is why Stephenson says the two organizations are at a deadlock when it comes to an agreement, but shares that the county is still willing to negotiate.
If an agreement is not made by December 31, the current 10-year contract and decades-long relationship between the County and the Humane Society will terminate. This will leave the humane society to fend for itself when it comes to funding and the county to scale back on animal services temporarily.
“Thomas County is still available to negotiate with the humane society. We’ve had several proposals go back and forth and hopefully we can find a way to settle our differences,” said Stephenson.
At this time there are no future meetings scheduled for the two organizations to continue those negotiations but both sides say they are willing.
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