After discussion began more than a month ago regarding the Madison County Animal Shelter and its services to the city of Richmond, the Richmond Commission resumed the conversation once again entertaining the idea of operating its own animal shelter in city limits.

Once Richmond received the county’s bill for its 25% portion to maintain the facility, more than $81,000, several commissioners asked if it was worth paying, as they didn’t feel services guaranteed were being properly provided.

The county made the argument that in some instances requiring services within city limits, the shelter may not be able to come out to retrieve an animal.

“For them not to pick up or address citizens’ of Madison County’s complaints, regardless of physical address, it’s insulting,” Commissioner Jason Morgan said. “When you add on to it, to the fact that we budgeted and wrote the check to assist them with their budgeting issues, and they failed to provide a service — we provided another $81,000 this year, to assist them with their budgeting issues, for them not to provide a service … We need to make a decision on whether or not we want to keep making bad investments.”

Commissioner Ed McDaniel added, “It seems to me like Madison County and other entities in the county always have their hand out to Richmond, and they don’t really work with us on things.”

McDaniel asked Rob Minerich, the city’s manager, what would keep the city from opening their own shelter.

He replied, saying that a Richmond shelter is “very do-able,” but the biggest hoops to jump through would be training the codes enforcement officers, who would be the department to handle the shelter, and then boarding the animals once they are picked up.

Mayor Robert Blythe said with the near $156,000 commitment over the current and previous fiscal year budgets, he thought that something could be arranged for boarding.

Minerich stated that the city of Richmond was not alone in its thinking, and that in watching Berea’s most recent city council meeting, there were several members of that council who didn’t feel obligated to foot their portion of the bill, $32,433, questioning the services being provided.

The county, who requested payments by the end of July, said that if there was no payment received, the county would no longer offer services to that entity.

Unlike the city of Berea, who has yet to pay their portion, Richmond budgeted to pay their part to continue services for the next fiscal year.

“I drive a county road, I am paying the maintenance for that road through the county gas tax. What county services, besides the roads, do you utilize?” Morgan asked the commissioners. “You are a law abiding citizen, you don’t go to jail. We have great parks in Richmond, we don’t use their parks. We provide a shooting range, police protection, fire protection, and they still don’t recognize what we do for them, and then they can’t come to assist on a barking dog.”

At a joint government meeting held last month between the two cities and the county, county officials spoke about the payments and the specific services they do provide.

Discussing the shelter and the amounts requested of both cities to help with its operations, Judge/Executive Reagan Taylor said that with the financial burden of trying to combat the ongoing drug epidemic, the county is looking to find help anyway that they could.

“We’re looking at alternative ways, we're looking and digging deep at KRS and the laws to see what we shall do, and what we may do,” he said at the former meeting. “This is one of those things that we have found — how’s the politically correct way to say this — we are looking for some help. We are looking for some intergovernmental help.”

“The two words that I remember most from that meeting were 'help us' and that suggests something to me,” Blythe said recalling the meeting on Tuesday morning.

“We have all talked about the elephant under the carpet that might happen with some things, with maneuvers they are making, and I think that it is fair to assume that they can walk that walk, that we all need to be partners and work together, but they’re also maneuvering to take care of themselves,” Minerich said. “And I’ll say that because it’s true.”

“I would love to see us operate our own animal shelter,” McDaniel said. “That way, we can put this debate to bed.”

Other business

• The commission heard an update from Bell Engineering about the Water Street update. The representative said that the design was completed, but that after the city requested the plans include additional street parking, the project was set back a few weeks.

• Lori Murphy Tatum, director of the tourism department, spoke to the commissioners about ideas to help beautify the city including new “Welcome to Richmond” signage, murals and an entertainment district.

The next Richmond City Commission meeting will be July 23, 6 p.m., at Richmond City Hall.

Reach Taylor Six at 624-6623 or follow her on Twitter @TaylorSixRR.

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