WILSON’S LOCAL PRINT AND DIGITAL COMMUNITY INSTITUTION SINCE 1896

Our Opinion: Animal shelter is ‘crumbling,’ but does county care?

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The Wilson County Animal Shelter is “crumbling,” and county commissioners have no timeline to replace it despite collecting a full decade’s worth of pet registration fees to fund a new shelter.

Following the county manager’s release of a $98.2 million proposed budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year that only increases shelter savings by $100,000, The Wilson Times filed a public records request to obtain copies of commissioners’ and county officials’ emails regarding the shelter.

On May 13, Sheriff Calvin Woodard sent County Manager Denise Stinagle a copy of a failed state inspection following an April 23 visit to the complex at 4001 Airport Drive NW.

“I am sending you an inspector report that does not make me happy,” Woodard wrote. “Our license is coming up in June, and the state is looking at failing the shelter due to no work being performed at the site. I have kept conversations with them, because they could have closed it down the day of this report.”

The facility compliance inspection report prepared by Lisa Carlson of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Animal Welfare Section is damning. Carlson paints a picture of a sinking, ill-maintained building that ought to have been closed years ago.

“This older facility is not structurally sound and is not maintained in good repair,” Carlson wrote. “Interior walls are beginning to buckle and form cracks causing concrete blocks to protrude. The entire left side of the floor of the cat area is sinking.”

Carlson continues: “...There is a blackish, greenish viscous substance covering a large corner area of one of the walls. The iron-type vents in the lower portions of the walls in the canine enclosures are rusted and have damaged iron that can potentially cause injury. The surrounding concrete continues crumbling and a blackish viscous substance appears here too. The drainage continues to be an issue, thus rendering one of the animal rooms to remain closed.”

The animal shelter is literally falling apart. And our commissioners play Nero, fiddling while Rome burns.

Carlson flunked the shelter due to “several chronic unresolved facility deficiencies that are resulting in a continuous status of noncompliance with the Animal Welfare Act.”

Our translation: The building’s condition is so poor that housing stray dogs and cats there constitutes neglect bordering on animal abuse. Funded with your tax dollars.

This report shocks the conscience. Stray pets shouldn’t be subjected to inhumane living conditions, and if commissioners don’t immediately appropriate the full sum it will require to build a new shelter, they will prolong these animals’ suffering.

Wilson County’s excuse has been a lack of money set aside to build a shelter. The county’s collected more than $1 million in pet registration fees since 2009 but didn’t start saving for the project until 2016. Now it has $330,000 in the bank. Estimates for a new shelter have ranged from $650,000 to $800,000.

Unless the shelter is condemned and Wilson County leases space in other facilities to temporarily house seized animals, officials will have to spend thousands to clean, patch, jury-rig and stabilize a structurally unsound money pit. That doesn’t sound like prudent fiscal management.

County residents will continue to bear those maintenance costs until your commissioners keep their word and build the new animal shelter promised in 2008 and used as a pretense to pass pet fees that have primarily been used to supplement the animal control budget.

Enough is enough, county commissioners. Your inaction has become an embarrassment to our community. Pet owners who grudgingly pay dog and cat license fees year after construction-less year feel cheated and swindled by their elected representatives. And no thinking person can blame them.

We call on the Wilson County Board of Commissioners to fully fund the new animal shelter in the 2019-20 budget and publicly commit to breaking ground before the calendar year’s close. You can’t kick this can down the road anymore — you’ve run out of road. Do the right thing.

CONTACT YOUR COMMISSIONERS

• Chairman Rob Boyette, District 5 — 6634 Governor Hunt Road, Lucama, NC 27851; 252-289-0762; rboyette@wilson-co.com

• Vice Chairman Leslie Atkinson, District 1 — 101 Branch St., Elm City, NC 27822; 252-650-1046; latkinson@wilson-co.com

• Sherry Lucas, District 2 — 2105 Sandy Creek Drive SW, Wilson, NC 27893; 252-291-9302; slucas@wilson-co.com

• JoAnne Daniels, District 3 — 406 Bruton St., Wilson, NC 27893; 252-363-3484; jdaniels@wilson-co.com

• Roger Lucas, District 4 — 4020 Wiggins Mill Road, Wilson, NC 27893; 252-237-6340; rlucas@wilson-co.com

• Chris Hill, District 6 — 1128 Woodland Drive, Wilson, NC 27893; 252-237-8855; ckhill@wilson-co.com

• Bill Blackman, District 7 — 4109 Stratfiord Drive N., Wilson, NC 27896; 252-243-1474; bblackman@wilson-co.com

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