City, group try to resolve issues

BLUE EARTH – Staci Thompson of Faribault County Humane Society rejects Blue Earth City Council’s recent claims about how animals have been treated since the Humane Society began handling strays brought to the local animal shelter.

Faribault County Humane Society was re-formed in 2008.

“We’ve made great strides in saving lives of animals,” Thompson said.

It was the Humane Society that made improvements to the shelter, she noted, including adding air-conditioning; and putting in more windows, lighting, fencing and cat cages. The group drives all over the county on behalf of animals. Members take shifts to care for the animals, even on holidays; they come in four times a day for dogs and twice a day for cats.

Some of the Humane Society volunteers talked about what they have done, some at their own expense, to take in strays, rehabilitate animals, and get them spayed and neutered.

The Humane Society has adopted nearly 600 animals, Thompson said.

“It’s been a Herculean effort on the part of all Humane Society volunteers,” she said. “We provide a valuable service to the community.”

Mayor Rick Scholtes said he reviewed the agreement between the city and the Humane Society that was signed in 2011, expired in 2012, and that the parties are still operating under. He set a meeting for 4:30 p.m. Thursday between city representatives and members of the Humane Society to work on some issues.

One issue, says Councilman John Gartzke, is that the city doesn’t get a report from the animal control officer on where animals are picked up and what transpires after that.

“There is a record,” countered Laura Larsen of the Humane Society.

Kathy Bailey, city administrator, said two dogs have “disappeared.”

Thompson disputed that, saying one wasn’t in the care of the Humane Society. She said the group was never told the other dog was to be held, and it was adopted.

“We document every animal that comes into the pound,” Thompson said.

“Since the first of the year, we have’t received any [documentation],” Bailey said.

Thompson repeatedly criticized Councilman Glenn Gaylord, who has been vocal in recent months about getting to the bottom of the issue.

Gaylord pointed out it was his idea to let the Humane Society use the city pound, so “I have the right to criticize things,” he said.

He said the council has been working on the issue for months, communicating with officials at the county and in other cities. All the entities recently received large bills from the Humane Society, covering two years. Some officials criticized the group’s record-keeping, questioning how a city is supposed to know that animals being billed for are actually picked up in their jurisdictions. He insisted that the Humane Society do a better job of record-keeping, tracking where the dogs come from, where they go, and how dangerous dogs are handled.

Gaylord also pointed out the pound in Blue Earth is too small to service all the animals in the county. He worried that the shelter might be full and Blue Earth will have no place to put animals in its own shelter.

“Other communities should take care of their own animals,” he said.

Councilman John Huisman stepped in with his opinion.

“It’s the Faribault County Humane Society, not Blue Earth Humane Society,” Huisman said. “They will take in animals from the entire county.

“We need to look for solutions, instead of rehashing problems,” Huisman said. “We need cooperation and positive thinking and ways of compromise. If we want to go forward, we need to find solutions.”

In action items, the council:

o Approved the Fourth Annual Jam the Food Shelf event June 20. Non-perishable food will be accepted in Putnam Park all day and donated to the Faribault County Food Shelf.

In other business:

o City engineer Wes Brown said the costs for the city and Blue Earth Light & Water on the Highway 169 construction project have decreased, while Faribault County’s costs have increased. The city’s cost is $878,418 while Light and Water’s share is $784,380. “The contractor plans to start June 10,” Brown said.

o Bailey announced that Centerpoint Energy began construction work on Highland Drive on Monday. Work had been slated to start June 3.

o Bailey said streets are still blocked from a train derailment April 28. The tracks on Child Street were repositioned and raised, making an uneven crossing, she warned.