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City-GCHS deal on animal shelter hits snags
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MONROE - Negotiations between the City of Monroe and the Green County Humane Society on land for a new animal shelter have dragged for four months.

During that time, the cost of the land to GCHS has increased from $1 to $133,000. And now a city service agreement must come before a land purchase deal can.

Monroe Community Improvement Committee members met Tuesday to find out what's delayed the process since negotiations seemed to be going smoothly last fall. Committee Chairman Charles Schuringa called the session after discovering there had been meetings between Monroe Mayor Ron Marsh, City Attorney Rex Ewald and GCHS representatives that he and other committee members weren't aware of.

Schuringa said he had been told by Marsh only that the agreement needed "some words changed," when he asked about the progress.

"I thought it was just a few words," Schuringa said.

At the November 2008 meeting, the committee asked Ewald and GCHS to review the details of an agreement in which the committee said the city could sell a lot in the Honey Creek Industrial Park to GCHS for $1.

The $1 price since has become $133,000.

"With all due respect, this is costing us money," Schuringa told Ewald, referring to his attorney fees. "And we have the Humane Society here, who want some answers so they can get going. And now we have wording that's altogether different than intended."

"Some of us should have been updated," Schuringa added.

Ewald explained he has been considering contingencies, the "what-ifs," that might arise.

"What-ifs is what lawyers do," Ewald said.

A major legal issue was the restriction of the city donating the land for public purpose.

Instead of a donation of the land, Ewald said he used the value of the 3.23 acres of land with infrastructure improvements, $133,000, and offset it with the cost of services the Humane Society provides the city over a five-year period.

When the five-year period runs out, Ewald said, the city and Humane Society would re-negotiate the cost for services.

But GCHS representatives said the terms could cripple the operation of the Humane Society early on in the project.

"A lack of revenue is what will kill this project," Steve Jacobson, from the GCHS, said.

Putting the cost of services to the city toward land acquisition "delays the city's infusion of revenue," he added.

Jacobson said the society needs a larger and more modern facility.

"What we currently have hinders the quality of care," he said.

The annual cost of caring for the city's shelter animals runs about $40,000 to $50,000. Of that, the city pays about 25 percent, with the Humane Society picking up the rest of the costs.

City Clerk Carol Stamm said the city's agreement with the Humane Society dates back to 1992, and has not been updated, only renewed, with no growth of the city's responsibility to GCHS. The city owns the building the current animal shelter is housed in and pays for building upkeep, a portion of the water bill, and donates some money each year for garbage bags.

Because of the city's budget, the city has no resources to pay extra for the society's services, Alderman Mark Coplien said.

Jacobson said the service agreement with the city "falls far short of what they (GCHS) need," and "should be brought back in line with reality."

"Without the service agreement updated, it's hard to give them a purchase agreement," CIC member Dan Henke said.

Schuringa agreed, and Ken Kallembach made the motion to table the purchase agreement for one month, during which Ewald is to work on updating the service agreement with GCHS.