The Henderson County Humane Society informed the Athens City Council on Wednesday that financial needs may cause the organization to close its doors by the end of the year.
A contingency of several HCHS representatives attended the special council meeting, including attorney Casey Campbell of the law firm, Shell Cooley, who served as spokesman for the group. Campbell briefed the Council on the status of the 25-year-old shelter and its needs.
“The shelter here in Athens provides exemplary service to the citizens here in Athens, and to the animals it takes in,” Campbell said.
The shelter has a no refusal policy, and took 4,594 animals in 2013.
“When somebody brings in an animal, about every 30 minutes, they make room for it, and find a place for it,” Campbell said.
The steady stream of animals is cared for by a staff of six employees and 10 volunteers who do all the state requires and more, Campbell said. The cost of feeding, housing, medicating, and caring for the animals, along with keeping the office running, was $247,000 in 2013.
Campbell said the total funding from the City of Athens and Henderson County for the year was $92,000. Of that, $19,200 came from the city.
“In order to meet that demand and bridge the $155,000 gap, the Humane Society has been forced to exhaust most of its emergency funds,” Campbell said. “It’s predicted that at the end of 2013, they will have exhausted all of the emergency funds.”
Campbell said if the HCHS doesn’t get any additional funding, it will be forced to close its doors when the current contracts expire at the end of the year.
“If it does, by state law, the county, and or city, will be forced to shoulder that burden of the $5,000 animals that come in every year,” Campbell said.
Campbell stressed that the HCHS did not appear before the Council on Wednesday to request additional funding, but to inform the council that if additional funding did not come, it will have to close its doors.
No action was taken on the item, which was on the agenda as a presentation.
On another topic, Athens Farmer’s Market Manager D.J. Warren appeared before the council as the venue prepares to begin opening weekly in May. During the winter months, the Farmer’s Market has been on a once-a-month schedule, coinciding with Canton First Monday Trades Days.
“We’ve had a lot more response than we’ve ever had before,” Warren said.
When the summer schedule starts in May, Warren would like the city to permit use of the City Park on Wednesday evenings, as well as the customary Saturday openings.
“The biggest complaint I get from my farmers is, ‘We have to get rid of more produce. We need other outlets for this.’”
The Wednesday opening would also benefit shoppers who have other Saturday activities.
Warren said the restrooms the vendors and customers were able to use last year during Farmers Market are not available this year, and she is searching for a solution to that problem. The Farmers Market is also looking for a possible covered site to hold the sales.