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Benzie Commissioners Discuss Future Plans to Fund Animal Control

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The fight to keep the Benzie County Animal Control and Shelter open may have to go on for a little longer.

The Benzie County Commissioners discussed the next steps for the organization at their meeting on Sept. 14, after the deadline to put the animal control millage on the November ballot was not met.

While a final decision wasn’t made, Commissioners agreed, for now, they were going to move funds from the county’s Delinquent Tax Revolving Fund, to pay for salaries and expenses with the county organizations.

“We needed to come up with how we’re going to support animal control,” said County Administrator Katelyn Zeits. “We discussed various options as far as moving forward.”

One of those options was from the Animal Welfare League of Benzie County. They offered to gift up to $120,000 to pay for the employee’s salaries—with the condition that a receptionist is hired.

Another option was restructuring how the shelter is run, condensing their four employees to two, and opening the shelter seven days a week.

“We are going to continue to talk about that,” said Zeits. “Maybe it is how it is now, but maybe there’s some changes and improvements we can make to the operations of that department.”

Benzie County Animal Control Officer Dillon Rosa spoke at the meeting not only as an employee of the county, but as a concerned citizen.

“I think today was a good starting point,” said Officer Rosa. “I think that we’re far from coming to a conclusion.”

Officer Rosa says from Jan. to Sept. 2021, animal control has gotten 154 calls from Central Dispatch, and the Animal Control Department takes two to four calls a day–adding up to over 600 calls.

If the department downsizes, employees will be stretched thin.

“To think that it’s a good idea to restructure animal control around 2 employees is simply irrational,” he said. “The public has a lot to say, they are frustrated on how this all ended up happening and I think it’s important, as leaders in the community, that the commissioners listen to the people who voted them into their positions that they’re in.”

It takes approximately $200,000 to $220,000 to run animal control and the shelter, according to the County Administrator.

The shelter currently has a fund balance of $118,000.

Zeits says they could potentially borrow up to $300,000 from the DTRF to keep the organziations going.

“We’re going to operate now with the we cash that we have, and we’re not actually going to pull that money until we need it,” she said.

The Benzie County Commissioners will meet with the Animal Control Director to discuss these options at an Animal Control Advisory Committee meeting, which is set for a later date.