HSOCC new board holds first meeting

Published 3:24 pm Friday, August 11, 2023

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By Carey Reeder | Managing Editor

The Humane Society of Chilton County’s new board held its first meeting on Aug. 10 at Clanton City Hall to establish the opening steps of bringing the shelter back to life. The agenda of the meeting covered everything from financial reports to fundraisers, to public concerns and new operating procedures.

President Jimmie Hardee began the meeting by approving Helen Edwards and Lake Gilliland on the board as treasurer and the second vice-president, respectively.

The shelter, as of Aug. 9, has 130 animals inside with 74 cats and 56 dogs. Suncoast Animal League came to the shelter and rescued 24 animals this week, and the board discussed future rescue efforts and ways to improve them such as other companies to use and better transportation for animals.

Shelter director Jennifer Fesmire presented the July 2023 financial report to the board, and the beginning balance is $5,361.16. The shelter has built up over $13,000 in debt on past due bills and services. The financial report was unanimously accepted by the board.

The board discussed each past due bill individually, and a motion to bid out the shelter’s trash services was approved unanimously to get the services cheaper. Among the past due bills, the shelter owes over $7,000 to a company who supplies the vaccine shots for animals for parvo, heartworms and other animal diseases. The shots are $25 for each dog and $12 for each cat.

The shelter went to another company who provides the shots and built up another past due bill of $3,500. Other past due bills that were discussed were worker’s comp, other veterinary supplies and regular occurring bills like internet and water services.

“In the future, we should not get in this kind of debt with anyone over anything, even if we have to stop our services,” Hardee said. “If we have somebody that cuts us off at $7,000, we just do not go and find another place. We need to worry about how we can pay that off, and then worry about other things. We cannot dwell on what happened in the past, but this falls on us.”

The board also made it clear how much the payroll would be, and how many employees would be needed to run the shelter comfortably. It would cost around $110,000 per year in payroll with two full-time employees not including Fesmire, and five part-time employees including a front office employee that would work 20-30 hours per week.

A motion to update the job descriptions on the shelter’s website for full and part-time employees was passed unanimously to accurately depict the daily operations they will be asked to do. The idea of Fesmire finding an assistant director was mentioned as well, so in case she is not there, there is someone in charge there.

A motion to approve Hardee, Edwards and Fesmire as the authorized persons on the shelter’s bank account was approved. Hardee put the shelter on emergency spending after the events a few weeks ago, and he made a motion for the shelter to remain in that until they are out of debt. Spending will be for essentials such as gas for the van or food for the animals. The motion to continue in emergency spending was approved unanimously.

Hardee mentioned the audit he requested for the shelter at the meeting as well, and the rates to do it that he found within the last week were extremely high. He requested that if anyone in the community who is an accountant and would like to donate their time it would be greatly appreciated. Edwards said she may know someone and assured the board she would ask them about it.

The need for audits for the shelter is essential to ensure it has good books in order for them to potentially be awarded grants in the future. Hardee said he would love the last three years to be audited, but will settle for two years at this point.

“Jennifer has carried this load on her back for four years, and before I got here me and her just did not agree. The reason I did not was because I had people asking me where the money is going, and that the money is going away,” Hardee said. “I have three year’s worth of (financial books) Helen (Edwards) is going to go over, but Jennifer has done a good job with keeping up with the money as far as I am concerned until she proves me wrong. I asked her to come back and be our director because she knows that shelter better than anyone down there at this point. I have no reason at this point to say Jennifer has taken a dime from this place or this shelter. Everything I have asked for the last two weeks she has given me.”

In February of 2023, Rita Smith made a donation honoring her late husband Martin Smith, a United States Marine Corps veteran. Smith donated $14,100 through PayPal and an additional $1,000 Lowes gift card. Fesmire said her and Smith discussed doing the fence upgrades first before moving on to a different project so there was not $14,000 worth of supplies just sitting at the shelter.

$2,057.72 was taken from that money for a new shed, and that money is still in the general account. After PayPal fees, there was $11,269.19 remaining and $489.56 was added to the account later.

The shelter purchased $9,211.52 worth of fencing materials at Lowes that are at the shelter now, and Fesmire has receipts for the purchases. They also spent $604,80 for six gates for the fences. That left $1,452.87 from the donation, and that was added to the general fund as well. There is now $3,510.59 in the general fund account from Smith’s donation.

Smith is concerned that the money she donated has not been spent the way she wanted it to be spent as a donor, and has expressed that to Hardee and the board in recent weeks. On May 28, a member of the board said Smith received a 13-page audit that included photos, receipts and where every dollar of the money was. There was a copy of the audit sent to Smith given to Hardee at the meeting as well.

Hardee said that Smith has threatened to take legal action against him and the HSOCC, but said he has made the proper representation for the county aware of the potential lawsuits.

“I want to make sure we do not spend that money left over in the general account in case she wants it back, and if so, we will let her have her donation back,” Hardee said. “As far as the other materials, if she wants to pick them up she can sign for them and come pick that up as well. Or, we will get people to put up the fences and fulfill her requests. Her husband served our country for our freedom, and she wants something good to come out of that. You cannot blame her … Maybe we can make her happy by doing these things.”

Other donors who have donated to the shelter in the past were in attendance and expressed their concerns, but said they are hopeful the new board will help build up a good rapport with the community and get things moving in the right direction to use their donations.

Hardee addressed new procedures at the shelter and a motion that anyone who visits the shelter needs to check in at the front desk was passed unanimously. Employees at the shelter who attended the meeting suggested a book to check in at the front desk, and a bell that visitors can ring so the staff can hear it while in other parts of the shelter to assist the public.

Hardee said the shelter in recent months have had problems with angry people coming to the shelter and entering it without permission.

“I want people to understand … That just because the shelter is paid for by the taxpayers of this county or city, it does not give the right to someone to just come in there and cause trouble,” Hardee said. “We are not going to tolerate that … We are going in the same direction of getting all of this under control, and I do not care if you are a taxpayer or not, you cannot just come in and abuse our staff.”

The shelter is open to the public on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m., and the first and third Saturday of each month from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Once the shelter becomes financially stable and staffed fully, they will explore expanding the hours.

Chilton County Sheriff’s Office deputy and board member Johnathon Oliver reiterated that the county does not pick up stray animals. If they did, they would be doing it all day due to the large number of strays in the county. Oliver asked that the public understand that animal control with the county only responds to law enforcement needs such as dangerous animals, permitting dogs to run at large and animal mistreatment.

Maintenance on the shelter building was also discussed, and Hardee asked for a detailed list of all of the things needed to be fixed or done around the building so they can be addressed, such as a roof. Hardee added that the county owns the shelter building and the agreement with the shelter previously said that the county would upkeep the building. Hardee said the county will still honor that and address some of the building maintenance. Each year the building is inspected by the county’s insurance, and each year they get docked for it.

Other maintenance discussed involved the shelter van, which Connell Automotive Services LLC donated labor to repair in July. The board said they will speak with them about services going forward to make sure the van is operating well. Hardee also mentioned the van needs to have a bulkhead installed inside of it to prevent the cages and anything else in the back from sliding up front and hitting the seats. Maintenance for the incinerator to make sure it is running properly was also discussed and will be looked into.

The upcoming Howloween 2023 fundraiser was discussed by the board. The fundraiser has 18 vendors and six sponsors so far, and there will be an auction, food trucks, family games and a folktale scary story teller. The Artsy Bean will have face painting setup, DJ Rhino donated three hours of entertainment for the event and The Sports Shop offered to do the shirts for the event for free. Howloween 2023 will be on Oct. 21 at Ollie Park in Clanton from 11 a.m.-5 p.m.