Members of the Animal Shelter of Pell City, Inc. (ASPCI) board are in the process of asking for funding from St. Clair County municipalities for the 2013-14 fiscal year, but some municipalities want to know how the ASPCI plans to spend their money.
Last month Pell City asked the ASPCI to comply with requests that would provide transparency reflecting how taxpayers’ money and charitable donations are being spent before they move forward with funding. City officials requested the ASPCI provide the city with a copy of their operating procedures, asked that they open all meetings to the public and conduct an audit annually. ASPCI has yet to respond to these requests.
“The city is not picking on the shelter but spending public funds requires accountability and transparency,” Pell City Mayor Joe Funderburg said in a previous work session.
Now other municipalities are voicing similar concerns.
Argo City Council discussed the contract ASPCI is asking them to sign for the upcoming year at Monday night’s regular meeting.
“I have some issues with this contract,” Argo Mayor Paul Jennings said. “I think the animal shelter shot themselves in the foot with this contract.”
According to the contract, Argo is being asked to pay $8,142 for annual operating expenses. The fee is based on population data from the 2010 census. ASPCI wants to charge the city $2 per resident. Argo’s population is 4,071. The contract states that the county is responsible for the impoundment of strays for municipalities with populations less than 5,000.
“By law, the county is required to provide impoundment services for municipalities with less than 5,000 residents,” County Commission Chairman Stan Batemon said at Argo’s meeting. “We contract with the shelter to provide those services.”
Last year the county budgeted more than $85,443 for the shelter’s services and SNAP program. Chairman Batemon said this amount includes additional funding to pay the shelter’s natural gas bill. For FY14 the shelter is asking the county for $157,000.
“We plan to discuss the budget at the next work session,” Chairman Batemon said.
If the City of Argo agrees to sign the contract, they will continue their funding commitment to the ASPCI “as a benefit to its citizens who need animal welfare assistant for their animals,” as stated in the contract.
“I don’t think dogs and cats need welfare assistance checks,” Mayor Jennings said.
Councilman Bill Rutledge said in the past the animal shelter refused to accept animals that came from Argo.
Argo’s contract also states that the city will “follow ASPCI’s current processes and procedures regarding animal intake and will not undertake to question directly or publicly comment on the actions and decisions of ASPCI.”
“With as much money as they want from us, that right there is just improper to even ask,” Mayor Jennings said.
Argo’s council decided to hold off on signing the contract until they find out more information.
Springville’s council discussed their contract with ASPCI Treasurer Jo Mitchell at their council meeting Monday night.
“We are trying to reduce the animal population of this county,” Mitchell told the council.
With a population 4,080, Springville’s fees are expected to increase by approximately $2,000.
In both Argo’s and Springville’s contracts, ASPCI asks them to pay a portion of the audit requested by Pell City. The ASPCI has never had an audit, and they have been open since 2002. ASPCI board member Barbara Wallace told Pell City officials an audit had not been done due to a lack of available funds. An audit for the ASPCI would cost an estimated $10,000. Mayor Funderburg said Pell City agreed to pay their fair share to conduct an audit.
An audit is not required by law since ASPCI is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, private company, not a government agency.
Springville city councilman Chip Martin questioned why the City of Springville is being asked to pay for part of the audit when an audit is not required.
But Pell City continues to pursue their requests for the shelter’s accountability to the public. Pell City allotted $30,800 in appropriations and in-kind services like pest control, utilities and maintenance and building repairs for the 2013 fiscal year. The city also owns the facility property.