Pell City Council, ASPCI still at odds as contract deadline nears
by David Atchison
Sep 12, 2013 | 2416 views |  0 comments | 43 43 recommendations | email to a friend | print
PELL CITY – City officials met with Animal Shelter of Pell City Inc. representatives Thursday after the non-profit company sent a letter to the mayor and council saying it could begin vacating the shelter by Friday.

In a letter to the mayor and council, Barbara Wallace, president of ASPCI, said the animal impoundment services contract with the city expires Sept. 30.

In her Sept. 10 letter, Wallace said the ASPCI’s proposed contract and lease agreement was sent to the city Aug. 10 and as of Monday the agency had not received any information regarding Pell City’s intent to continue contract arrangements.

“ASPCI hopes that a contract and lease agreeable to both parties can be achieved,” Wallace wrote. “It is imperative that we know your proposed terms for continued services by our organization no later than 3 p.m. on Sept. 13, 2013.

“If a response is not received by 3 p.m. on Sept. 13, 2013, ASPCI will begin taking the necessary steps for vacating the premises,” the letter states. “This is not the course we desire to be taking; however, the fact that we have not received any response to our contract and lease proposals will leave us with no choice.”

Mayor Joe Funderburg said during Thursday’s council meeting that when he last met with ASPCI representatives he reiterated his and the council’s concerns, but never heard back from ASPCI officials.

Funderburg said the city had three requests, that ASPCI have an audit, that the city be provided standard operating procedures for the shelter and that the non-profit open all its meetings to the public.

Funderburg said ASPCI had an audit completed, but he was not satisfied with ASPCI’s standard operating procedure because it restricted access to the shelter for the city’s animal control officer. Wallace said the public has access to ASPCI but the access is restricted to a small area of the shelter where animals are held for the first seven days of captivity because of safety and liability concerns.

Funderburg said he was told by ASPCI officials that once an animal is delivered to the shelter it becomes the property of ASPCI. He said that is a contradiction to the letter he and the council received.

“In the event that an agreement is not reached and ASPCI must vacate the premises, to minimize the impact to the animals in the shelter, Pell City assumes responsibility for all animals at the facility as of close of business the day of ASPCI’s departure from the building,” Wallace wrote.

ASPCI officials re-emphasized that the non-profit was not subject to the open meetings laws of the state, although company officials said they would open all quarterly “board meetings” to the public.

Wallace said board members also have frequent “management meetings” during which officials discuss the day-to-day operation of the shelter, but all board members do “not necessarily” attend those meetings.

Council President James McGowan said he feels strongly about ASPCI having open meetings, since public money funds the shelter.

“I don’t understand why you don’t have open meetings,” McGowan said. “It sounds like you have things you don’t want the public to know.”

He said there are provisions in the open meetings law for closed sessions, like when discussing good name and character.

ASPCI treasurer Jo Mitchell said the city does not “give” ASPCI money, but the city “pays” for a service.

“I’m not going to sit here and go back and forth,” McGowan said.

Councilman Jay Jenkins said he has received calls from residents about ASPCI not allowing the public access to its meetings.

He said when ASPCI closes meetings to the public “it looks like you have something to hide.”

Jenkins said he talked to two people who considered volunteering for the animal shelter, but can’t attend ASPCI meetings to find out what’s going on and they don’t want to volunteer if they aren’t allowed into meetings.

ASPCI is asking the city for an increase in funding, from $25,000 to $35,000 a year for the next three years.

Mitchell said ASPCI can provide animal impoundment services at a lower cost than the city because the non-profit does not provide its employees with benefits.

City officials said there are also concerns about the actual contract and proposed lease agreement with ASPCI.

City attorney John Rea told the council he will offer revised changes to the proposed contract to ASPCI’s attorney Ericka Elzey for review.

Contact David Atchison at datchison@dailyhome.com.