Blue Earth eyes dog pound deal

BLUE EARTH – Blue Earth City Council is considering entering into a joint powers agreement with Faribault County and the cities of Elmore and Winnebago.

The matter came up at a recent meeting to discuss hiring an animal control officer. The meeting was attended by Blue Earth Mayor Rick Scholtes, City Administrator Kathy Bailey, and law enforcement officers representing the three cities and the county.

The agreement would turn over all operations of the Blue Earth dog pound to the joint powers board, whose job would include overseeing the animal control officer, approving bills and deciding whether a new kennel should be built.

Scholtes said the board would include representatives from each town and the county, probably law officers.

“I’m not comfortable with that,” said Councilman John Huisman. “I don’t think it should be exclusively that group.”

The agreement is a “very preliminary draft” and was open to discussion by the council, said City Attorney David Frundt.

Scholtes said Blue Earth can continue to operate the pound under the standing lease agreement with the Faribault County Humane Society, approve a new lease agreement that both entities have worked on for months, or go with the joint powers agreement.

“How does the Humane Society fit into the joint powers agreement?” Huisman asked.

Frundt said the Humane Society is not part of the agreement at present.

The Humane Society does not have any governmental authority to be part of the joint powers deal, Bailey noted. The joint powers board could choose to ask the Humane Society to foster animals, but that would be up to the board.

“There’s no reason not to work with you guys,” said Police Chief Tom Fletcher to Humane Society members. “I don’t want to see any dogs put down either.”

Scholtes stated the county and two other cities would only be parts of the joint powers agreement; if Blue Earth decided to approve either agreement with the Humane Society, it would be between the two of them.

“If we don’t go this way (joint powers agreement), we’ll lose the other towns,” Scholtes said. “If we do go the other way, it’s just us.”

“So you guys want us out of the pound,” said Staci Thompson, president of the Faribault County Humane Society.

Scholtes said Blue Earth doesn’t lose anything if the other three leave, but the Humane Society needs to include the entire county.

“The only ones you’ll get paid for are the ones coming in from Blue Earth,” he said.

“We need the income,” said Thompson, adding that her group was blindsided by discussion of the joint powers agreement.

Council members mentioned they too had no prior knowledge of the deal.

“I really think we need to table this,” Huisman said.

“I don’t want our local police department picking up dogs. That’s not their job,” said Councilman John Gartzke.

“If you have an animal control officer, that’s their job,” said Councilman Dan Brod.

An animal control officer would take care of animals, such as deer, and situations the Humane Society would not, Bailey said.

“This needs to be reworked, it’s not acceptable in this form,” Huisman said. “Broaden the base and get more input.”