YADKINVILLE — Questions on donations made to the county’s animal shelter took center stage Monday night at the county commissioners’ meeting.
Several local animal activists addressed the board and urged commissioners not to put restrictions on donations made to the Yadkin County Animal Shelter.
The urgent pleas came after a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was put in place by the county on donations.
According to County Manager Aaron Church, the manager is not authorized to enter into contracts lasting more than one year or totaling more than $999 without the board of commissioners’ approval.
An MOA was put in place Oct. 8 for shelter donations like toys and treats. The list of what can be accepted came after a meeting Church had with donors on why certain things had to be turned down.
“I did this on an emergency basis for a volunteer and a volunteer wrote this policy, that I met with,” Church said. “The volunteer goes to the shelter and feeds treats to the animals weekly. She was at our meeting, and she and I met and we went over each one of the toys and looked at Walmart and some stuff to pick out.”
Church said the county has worked with donors to find ways to donate but some limitations were necessary.
“I also explained to some other folks, some that are in the room tonight, that we can change this, add, whatever we need to to it. It’s not written in stone,” Church said. “It was just a way to go ahead and get some of the stuff settled before we had a chance to put a legal, binding agreement on the agenda, because we didn’t have time to get it prepared and go through the attorney and review like we have in prior years for bigger projects and larger expenditures.”
He said MOAs have been done in the past with the Yadkin County Humane Society.
The MOA has hampered the efforts of several Yadkin residents and some from surrounding counties. The main source of controversy comes from a recent donation made to the animal shelter by Alice Singh.
Singh purchased several boxes worth of goods and had them sent to the animal shelter. She was informed on Oct. 8 that the purchases were to be sent back to the vendors and would not be accepted.
Church said this was in an effort to avoid the contract restrictions that are in place on large donations. He pointed to bribery and embezzlement cases by county officials in recent years as all the more reason to avoid the appearance of impropriety.
Church said limitations also were put on items like treats because they could potentially be hazardous to the dogs and a liability for the county.
Singh and four other women who spoke during Monday’s public comments period said the restrictions made it difficult to donate and would lead to people donating to other counties, where donations of any kind are gladly accepted.
Normal protocol for a commissioners meeting allows two speakers for and two against any subject, with each only speaking five minutes. Commissioner David Moxley made a motion to remove the restrictions in light of the issue’s interest.
Commissioner Marion Welborn seconded it, and the board gave the majority of the meeting to hearing those who approached the podium to speak.
India Collins of Jonesville likened the declined donations to a student receiving a four-year scholarship to college and opting to refuse it in favor of paying for the tuition themselves.
Collins said she had volunteered a lot of her time over the last year in efforts to raise money for the animal shelter.
“We worked with a non-profit organization and raised $24,000 this year,” Collins said. “With this $24,000 all we are asking is that you not limit how we can spend this money. This is free money…When you start putting stipulations and new rules where a dollar amount can’t be exceeded — it’s really hindering Yadkin County.
“This should be a huge win for Yadkin County. We should all be so appreciative of this,” Collins said.
Dianne Doub of East Bend said that when most of the commissioners were running for office they claimed they cared about animals, but now they were hindering the donors.
“There was no policy, there were no contracts when we donated. There was nothing to sign. Policies weren’t the problem. It’s that donations were locked up and shipped back before the policy came out,” Doub said. “Please don’t take the joy of giving and receiving away.”
Singh handed out packets of information to the commissioners before detailing a conversation she had with Church in recent weeks leading up to Monday.
“On Aug. 30, 2013, a group of volunteers had an event, Whiskers and Wine, to raise money for the Yadkin County Animal Shelter,” Singh said. “For the first time in the history, the entire history of Yadkin County, over the past two years the Yadkin County Animal Shelter has been a place that citizens of Yadkin County wanted to go to and to adopt animals.”
Through the fundraiser, several boxes of donations were purchased and shipped to the animal shelter. When they arrived, Singh said they were unwelcome and returned to the vendors.
“On Oct. 11, Mr. Church stated the following: he asked the employees what was in the boxes. They were delivered to the shelter and they [the employees] said they didn’t know. They didn’t know exactly because several boxes were to arrive from the orders placed on Sept. 20, 2013.”
Singh said she received an email from Church on Oct. 8 stating the MOA conditions, but she pointed out that her donations had been ordered prior to that, on Sept. 20.
She said the volunteers were working to make the shelter a better place and are looking to hold another event in 2014, but are unsure whether to go through with the planning and work if their donations will be refused.
Church took the portion of the evening dedicated to the county manager’s reports to respond to the comments.
He said he was meeting with several people over the next two days to find a solution to the conflict and work out the donation issues while avoiding issues of inappropriate behavior.
Board Chairman Kevin Austin closed the evening by saying everyone involved with the decision was working to benefit animals housed in the shelter.
”I just want everybody to know that this whole thing is nothing personal. It’s not trying to point any fingers at anybody or insinuate any mistrust in any way, shape or form,” Austin said. “Mr. Church talked about some things that have gone on in this county in the past, and this board, here, has been extremely committed to not having those things on our watch.”
Reach Taylor Pardue at 835-1513 ext. 15 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.