Leader Blues

Monday, July 31, 2006

TOP STORY>>Mayor opens animal shelter in Cabot

Leader staff writer

The opening ceremony for Cabot’s long-awaited animal shelter was held Thursday, but it was not quite the celebration that might have been expected. Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh, who presided over the ribbon cutting, criticized the seven city council members who did not attend. “It kind of surprised me,” he said. “I understand that there are some who couldn’t be there, but it seemed like there were some who could have been considering that they say they are so concerned about animals. It was disheartening. That was a huge day for the city,” Stumbaugh said. “It’s been a struggle to do things to better this city.”

Only Alderman David Polantz attended the ceremony and he showed up late. Stumbaugh called the lack of attendance “politics” but declined to elaborate on that assessment. Alderman Odis Waymack, one of the seven council members who didn’t attend the ceremony, sent The Leader a written response to Stumbaugh’s criticism. “I would like to apologize to the citizens of Cabot for not being at the animal shelter opening, but I lost a family member and was unable to attend,” Waymack wrote.

“I would like to thank the city council members who supported the ordinance allowing the citizens to vote for the extension of the one-cent tax to enable the city to build the animal shelter – Bob Duke, Tom Armstrong, James Glenn and especially Eddie Cook for cosponsoring the ordinance. “Most of all I want to thank the citizens of Cabot who overwhelmingly passed the extension of the one-cent sales tax making it possible to build the animal shelter along with the community center, the railroad overpass and make major repairs to the roads. “This was done with Mayor Stumbaugh saying that the extension would never pass,” he wrote.

During a phone interview, Waymack went further, saying extending the sales tax was the only way to build the animal shelter and community center, which is now under construction. And Stumbaugh was opposed to extending the tax because it passed originally by only one vote and was supposed to sunset when the water debt it supported was paid. The extension that voters approved in September 2005 supports a bond issue of about $30 million. In a breakdown of the bonds, $7 million was used to pay off the old bonds the tax supported; $17.5 million will build a new sewer plant and pay for improvements to the sewer collection system; $800,000 will pay for the city’s part of a $6 million railroad overpass; $1.5 million went toward the community center which should open at the end of October; $2.1 million will be used for streets; and $200,000 was used to build the $452,000, 7,000-square-foot animal shelter.

The new shelter is located at the AllmanBevis Sports Complex where it is hoped unwanted dogs and cats will have a better chance of finding homes. The new shelter has an inside play area and an outside play area, so prospective pet owners will have a chance to get to know the animals before they take them home. It has two rooms for cats which cannot be housed at the old shelter, a puppy room, 20 kennels, a laundry room for washing bedding, an office, a room for storing food and one for preparing it, a quarantine room and a room for euthanizing animals and performing surgery. The old shelter, located next to the old city shop on Kerr Station Road, is known to be a dismal place that is off the beaten path. The hope is that volunteers will be more willing to help out at the new shelter, said Jim Towe, the city’s director of public works.

Sandra Graham, the city’s lead animal control officer for many years, said Friday that she still needs a form from the city attorney releasing the city from liability for volunteer injuries. And volunteers will have to take a short course on caring for animals, but she agrees with Towe that area residents are more likely to volunteer at the new shelter. The opening of the new shelter also means the beginning of enforcement of a 2002 ordinance that requires city residents to control their cats. Although the shelter is empty now, Graham said she will start moving animals in next week after the cat room floors are sealed.

After the rooms are ready, cats that are not sterilized will not be allowed to run free. Sterilized cats may run free, but only if they are not nuisances.