Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Feb. 25, 2002

With reduced funding, humane society sends county a bill for services

By John Holler
Wright County Correspondent

It has been said that timing is everything. If that's true, the Wright County Humane Society needs to work on its timing ­ at least as it relates to the Wright County Board.

In the midst of concerns over budget shortfalls, the county board reacted angrily at its Feb. 19 meeting to a bill for $380 from the humane society for work done in January concerning calls pertaining to dog cruelty issues.

Assistant County Attorney Brian Asleson informed the board that in previous years, the county wasn't billed for such matters and the commissioners felt they shouldn't be. Of the nine matters listed, eight of them had to do with animal calls within city limits ­ which are not the responsibility of the county.

"This may be a change in procedure," Asleson said. "My understanding is that the $3,000 (the humane society) is receiving now is for dangerous dogs only."

The humane society came before the board last month disputing a decision to divide funding of $6,000 annually previously given to the humane society that would now be split between the humane society and Crossroads Animal Shelter.

The $6,000 in funding was termed at the time of split in funding as both "a gift" and "a donation" by Commissioner Pat Sawatzke.

The original humane society funding was the result of financial hardships several years ago that resulted in the county board paying the rent ($500 a month) on the humane society's headquarters.

Since then, the humane society is in a new building paid for through donations, yet still received the same funding from the county. The bill for January may change that in the future.

"I don't know what they're trying to do," Sawatzke said. He pointed out that many of the calls had nothing to do with county business and that apparently every call made was billed for $40 to the county.

These ranged from a complaint about an underweight horse ­ a complaint that failed to identify a sex of the horse, which led to speculation that no on-site visit was even made.

In addition, a $40 charge was levied for a stray puppy that was picked up by its owner, who paid an impounding fee ­ resulting in what the board viewed as double-billing.

Board Chair Jack Russek angrily responded to the bill, saying, "When we gave them $6,000 a year, we weren't getting billed at all. We cut the funding in half and now we get a bill. We don't have a contract with these people, so I'm not in favor of paying this."

Neither were the other commissioners. The item was laid over until the humane society could be contacted and respond to the rationale for the bill.

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