Public meeting on humane society is in order

Published 12:03 am Sunday, May 29, 2011

In order to plan for future growth and to modernize the operations of the Natchez-Adams County Humane Society, a community-wide effort was undertaken during the past three years led principally by Vidal Davis and helped by many others to raise funds to build and operate a modern state-of-the-art facility.

The NACHS faces many challenges and it has become clear that the current facilities have badly outgrown their ability to accommodate the needs of the animals and staff. Through the hard work of Vidal and the membership of the NACHS, more than $500,000 has been raised to construct the new facility. These generous donations and pledges were made based on specific building plans and assurances from the NACHS.

It now seems that some of the members of the board of directors of the NACHS have recently changed the proposed plans and location for the new animal shelter. I, along with many others, are concerned and feel we need to call a public meeting to discuss why these changes are being made. The meeting should include the NACHS board, the full membership and anyone who donated money to the building fund based on public plans presented for the last three years.

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Various members and donors have made requests to the board to have such a meeting, but these requests have been denied. We understand that at least three of the 10 board members have recently resigned because of the new change in direction and issues.

The board should be required to report to the membership on at least an annual basis. It is now time to report. To have a public meeting is not a personal attack on the board. Many of them have spent years taking care of animals, spending their own money, many hours of personal time and always with love in their hearts for the animals and the society.

However, now there is a need for additional fiscal oversight and management on the board. It is imperative that the NACHS is in compliance with its 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status of having an audit annually, by-laws, election of officers and many other requirements.

The more than half million dollars that have been raised so far were given for the specific purpose of a new facility based on the building plans that have been presented and not for current operating expenses. If the plans are changed, a decision of this magnitude should be made by the general membership. Some donors have stated they may want their money back under these circumstances. One pledge was for $100,000 if the facility was built, but more importantly, if the NACHS could show ongoing management and prepared plans for continued operations with on-site management. This was rejected by the current board. Now, with the recent changes, that pledge has been withdrawn.

Many of us donated funds thinking the original proposed plans for a new state-of-the-art shelter was a forward-thinking idea that would facilitate bringing our area into the new century.

The City of Natchez also appropriates $15,000 a year, and Adams County appropriates $20,000 a year so the taxpayers of Adams County have a right to see an audit and that promises are kept.

Rather than scaling back on the facility’s plans, we should be thinking of expanding so the humane society doesn’t have to kill an average of nearly 100 animals a month. With all of the effort about regionalism, why not a Miss-Lou Humane Society? Across the river, we have two progressive, strong, successful and respected mayors in Hyram Copeland and Glen McGlothin that may be interested in joining with us.

The new shelter is designed to last for at least the next 50 years. If it is cut back, then in a few short years we will be back to where we are now.

Adults and students won’t volunteer because “it stinks” and due to the rundown deplorable conditions of the present building. These conditions are not the fault of the present staff, but of a facility that was never designed for this purpose and outlived its usable life years ago.

We need to act fast before the donor base for the humane society is weakened because of lack of confidence and lack of trust in the words of the board.

We call for a public meeting.

Build it right and the money will come.

Tony Byrne is a Natchez resident.