St. Clair mayors discuss animal shelter audit
by Will Heath
ST. CLAIR COUNTY — County mayors discussed their cities’ relationship with the Animal Shelter of Pell City following Tuesday’s meeting of the county Mayors Association.

Pell City Mayor Joe Funderburg, Riverside Mayor Rusty Jessup, Moody Mayor Joe Lee, Springville Mayor William Isley and Argo Mayor Paul Jennings all sat in on the discussion, along with St. Clair County Commission Chairman Stan Batemon.

“What we’re really looking for is a spirit of cooperation with the shelter,” Jessup said. “We (in our cities) have to answer to our taxpayers about how their money is being spent, and we want a better sense of accountability from them (at the shelter).”

Jessup and Funderburg have each discussed what they called a lack of transparency with the ASPCI, with whom all the municipalities — along with the county — contracts for animal shelter services. Funderburg said his city has asked the shelter for open meetings, for permission to conduct an audit and for a list of standard operating procedures for the shelter.

“(The shelter) is in partnership with all the municipalities in the county,” Funderburg said. “Even if it’s a private entity, there needs to be some consideration to allow those municipalities an opportunity to know how their money is being spent.”

Batemon provided a word of caution to the mayors in the room — according to him, the shelter’s contract with local governments is similar to that of the Economic Development Council, which also does not open its books to the public.

“If Pell City has an elevator malfunctioning, Pell City can hire a company to fix the elevator,” Batemon said. “They don’t then ask for an audit of the elevator company.”

The county is currently the largest single payer into the animal shelter’s budget, at roughly $87,000 per fiscal year.

“Things are working for us at $87,000,” Batemon said. “I don’t think we could do it any cheaper or better.

“I don’t want this program to stop. I want it to continue and be OK and function the way it always has.”

Funderburg said he agreed with Batemon, with one caveat.

“I think it could function better,” he said. “I don’t think any of our requests (from the city) are unreasonable.”

Jennings, the mayor of Argo, asked whether the mayors could ask for representation on the ASPCI’s Board of Directors.

“I sit on the Moody GUS (sewer) Board,” Jennings said. “I don’t have a vote, but I’m aware of what’s going on there.”

Funderburg said his city had inquired about representation, and was rebuffed.

“We were totally denied,” he said.

Isley, the mayor of Springville, said his council will invite a representative from the shelter to a meeting in the near future.

“I’d like to call someone in front of our council and let us ask some questions,” Isley said.

Everyone in the room said they were pleased with the service the shelter provides.

“I’m not questioning the service at all,” Isley said.

Jessup echoed that sentiment.

“It’s (an audit) just part of a spirit of cooperation,” he said. “It’s just the prudent thing to do.”

Contact Will Heath at wheath@thestclairtimes.com.

© 2013