By BRADEN LAMMERS
JEFFERSONVILLE — If Clark County does not pay an overdue balance owed to the J.B. Ogle Animal Shelter by March 4, the shelter will no longer accept its animals.
A letter sent to the Clark County Commissioners by Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore and Corporation Attorney Tom Lowe demanded the county pay the money owed to the shelter from 2010-12.
Each year’s payment totals $66,150 with the total the city has requested equaling $198,450.
But Clark County Commissioner Rick Stephenson said the county does not have that amount of money. He says the commissioners agreed to pay $63,500 that was budgeted for the animal shelter by the Clark County Council.
“We had no more money besides that to give him,” Stephenson said. “We just couldn’t afford it,” he said of Moore’s demand.
However, Moore said the city and the county had a deal in place three weeks ago that included paying $125,000 later this year for the overdue payments and writing another check later in the year for the money owed in 2013. But he said the commissioners backed out of the deal and have cut off communication with the city.
“We went to [Moore] with a fair offer,” Stephenson said. “We wanted to do right by the animals.”
He added that part of a new agreement would have been the establishment of an animal shelter advisory board with the animal shelter director leading the board. With the animal shelter director in control, the goal was to focus operations on the facility itself.
“We’re trying to take care of animals and not make political statements,” Stephenson said.
The interlocal agreement that existed between the county and the city was more than 20 years old. Sellerburg, Charlestown, Clarksville, Utica and Borden also pay annual fees to the shelter for taking in the animals. Even with several extensions to the deal, the language in the contract did not extend past 1999. Last year Moore requested the overdue payments to the city, but former Commissioner Ed Meyer said at the time several issues needed to be resolved before the payments were made. Among the changes was that the interlocal agreement needed to be revamped to correlate to changes in the county’s population following Jeffersonville annexations.
Another obstacle that held up a deal under the previous commissioners was space that was being leased to the Jeffersonville Police Department for storage. Stephenson said the money owed by the city for using the space was forgiven.
“We do have a responsibility,” Stephenson admitted. “Mike’s trying to collect $198,000 that he wouldn’t pay on his own; these are debts that were incurred while he was a Clark County commissioner.”
Stephenson asked why the present county commissioners are being held responsible for a debt that was incurred by the previous administration, including Moore.
Moore admitted that it was a fair criticism.
He said in 2010 that he believed the fee needed to be paid to the city. But because of annexation the county’s numbers and payment should change. Therefore the payment was not made in 2011.
“Nobody from the city at that time addressed the question,” Moore said. “It lingered. Now I am trying to [fix it].”
In 2012, Meyer said the payment to the animal shelter was built into their budget, but was removed when the commissioners’ budget was cut by the Clark County Council.
Stephenson said the former commissioners actually had money in their budget to pay the fee, but chose not to. He added that the current commissioners would pay $63,500 tomorrow.
“I only want to do what’s right,” he said. “We can only fix what we can afford now. We can’t pay for the mistakes of the past.”
Moore responded that the price is supposed to be $66,200 per year and said that price is very outdated. Even with the request the expectation is the full payment will not be made.
“I know the county is not going to be able to make that commitment,” he said. “Sure it’s putting pressure on them, when do you get to a point ... when do you say enough is enough? I don’t think it’s fair for the residents of Jeffersonville to bear the cost of the animal shelter in the county.
“If they want to participate in the J.B. Ogle animal shelter there is a fee,” Moore said. “Every entity pays into this except one, and service will no longer be free to Clark County.”