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Letter to the editor

March 19, 2017 at 4 a.m.

Setting the record straight

The Marshall News Messenger published an article on March 15, 2017 entitled "Mitchell drops out of Marshall City Commission election during candidate forum." Erroneous statements were quoted in this article. I will not address all of them in this forum, but do want to present factual information so our community is informed.

On December 21, 2015, I made a motion to approve a contract with Flowers and Associates for a preliminary architectural conceptual design on a new animal shelter. Commissioner LaDarius Carter seconded the motion, which passed unanimously with a 7:0 vote.

The vote, which took place on January 28, 2016 and referenced by Mrs. Charles Wilson in the article published this week was not a repudiation of a new animal shelter. It was made clear that some of the Commissioners had not received all of the relevant information and did not completely understand the issue. They were correct to vote "NO" until this information was provided. This was demonstrated at the February 11, 2016 Commission meeting when the Commission voted 5:0 with one abstention to move forward, in good faith, to work toward making a decision on improving our animal shelter facility.

As a Commission, we took this approach to afford the Marshall Police Department, our Animal Shelter team, and city staff the additional opportunity to define what we needed in a new facility. The city staff team responded by developing a hand drawn sketch of a floor plan with a list of needs and requirements for a new Animal Shelter facility. The architect then drew this sketch to scale. At the request of the city, the architect also developed a construction cost estimate for this prospective facility of $676,895 as of April 13, 2016. There are additional incremental project costs consisting of design fees, furniture fixtures and equipment for example.

April 19, 2016, Mayor Eric Neal moved that the City of Marshall commit $400,000 to fund the construction of a new animal shelter facility. The motion passed unanimously, 6:0. The understood reason for this amount was that the city desired to partner with Harrison County in the construction of a new Animal Shelter facility because more than one-half of the animals received by the shelter come from the county outside the city limits of Marshall. Therefore, the city would commit to pay for about half of the new construction costs and submit a request to the county to pay for half. Unfortunately, the City Commission did not follow through and formally request the county to pay for half of a new animal shelter.

Two architects and several construction professionals have carefully inspected the current animal shelter and evaluated the feasibility of renovating the facility. The unanimous opinion of these experts is that the facility cannot be cost effectively renovated. Also, equally important is the fact that there is not sufficient land available to expand the existing facility. The conclusion by all professionals and consultants is to build a new facility.

Mayor Eric Neal and some others are now apparently taking the position that the city should spend a maximum of $400,000 in total on a new facility. Surely Mayor Neal is not proposing to build only part of a new facility, or construct an inadequate facility incapable of serving our city?

In the article Mayor Neal states, "…if that number comes back at more than $400,000, then this thing does need to go to a bond issue…" Why would we propose a bond issue to raise new taxes when our city currently has more than enough funds and budgetary resources to pay for the cost of a new facility? Mayor Neal and the city have already raised our taxes by increasing our property tax rate and our water and sewer rates. Why would we raise taxes again unnecessarily?

Mayor Neal may have misspoken, and may have intended to mean that the citizens should vote and decide whether or not to construct a new animal shelter facility. If this is the case, for what purpose were he and the other Commissioners elected? Again, no additional taxes are needed to build a new facility. It is City Commission's job to research the issues and make prudent decisions on behalf of their constituents.

Animal Shelter services are a core function and responsibility of city government. Our current facility was graciously built and given to our city about 50 years ago. Replacing the facilities that serve our community when required is a cost of doing business for our city. It is the responsibility of our leaders to ensure that our core city services are consistently delivered to all of our citizens, with excellence.

I do support building a new animal shelter facility as long as it is built for no more than about 150 percent of the architect's April 13, 2016 cost estimate, and as long as it contains the design features and requirements currently stipulated. I do respect my friends and neighbors who disagree. As our community considers this question, my desire is that the decision be made based upon what is the best long-term decision for all of Marshall, and also that it be made with complete and accurate information.

More information and some of the documentation mentioned in this letter can be found here.

By: Garrett Boersma, Marshall



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