Last week’s special called work session of the Dade County Commission on SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax) was sparsely attended and understated, consisting mainly of interested parties putting in their dibs for SPLOST funds for the next six years should voters opt to renew the 1-cent sales tax in the 2020 referendum.
But one significant, even historical, development did come out of that ho-hum meeting, not trumpeted for the press but in one of County Executive Chairman Ted Rumley’s signature mumbled-into-the-chest asides. The Planet caught up with the county boss this morning and induced him to spit it out for posterity: Yes, he said, Dade County is, finally, to build an animal shelter.
(Photo: "Wee Sleekit," a pit bull mix puppy abandoned on a dirt road just outside Dade County, which has no animal shelter.)
Rumley said the building will be started as soon as feasible, not “in the dead of winter” but perhaps as soon as the spring. “You can put the building up in just a matter of weeks,” he said by phone this morning. He added that the county is coordinating with the Trenton city government on the shelter project.
The matter came up at the Oct. 10 SPLOST workshop in connection with future funds from the new SPLOST, which would start in 2021 if approved. These future SPLOST dollars, said Rumley, would be used to equip the animal shelter, which is, of course, to be built with funds from the current SPLOST.
So this consummation that has so devoutly been wished—and struggled toward fruitlessly and frustratingly by countless animal welfare advocates over the nearly three decades The Planet has kept watch--was announced as an incidental. Rumley says the commission is acting on it now as a matter of completing the projects approved for the old SPLOST list before time for the new one. “It just happened to be on the list,” he said.
Dade voters said yes to $245,000 for an animal shelter on both the 2015 and 2009 SPLOST ballots, but nary a cent was spent nor a brick laid after either vote. “The reason it never got done before is always that something happens,” said Rumley. The commission couldn’t just not repair the damage wreaked by the 2011 tornadoes because it owed SPLOST money to an animal shelter, he said. “You’ve got to prioritize,” said Rumley. “But this time the county is in very good shape.”
Rumley said the animal shelter will be built near the county transfer station on Sunset. “It’s just the right place for it,” he said.
Animal activists had begun a fresh push for the shelter—there have been others throughout the years—this past January. Rumley and the county commission directed them to get signatures on a petition to show interest in the project, and the activists never came back.
Photo: Barbara Havlin addresses the county commission about an animal shelter in January.
In point of fact, critics pointed out to the county, voters had twice shown interest in the project by approving the $245K in SPLOST in two different votes. And the Georgia SPLOST rules state unequivocally that local governments cannot decide to nix SPLOST projects once the voters have approved them but are mandated to carry them out.
But Dade is a rural county and each time the matter of beginning a shelter, naysayers concerned with the expense of a shelter strike back up the just-shoot-‘em chorus.
Rumley denied that this kind of opposition has any bearing on his decisions. “I don’t really care about the negative stuff,” he said. “I just try to do right for the people of Dade County.” He said he's going forward with the animal shelter because Dade needs it. "We have an animal issue," he said.
Animal rescue activist and Trenton City Commissioner Monda Wooten has told The Planet she has been asked by the Dade County Commission to spearhad plans for the shelter.
The Planet will continue to report faithfully on this issue.