OPINION: MY POSITION ON THE MARSHALL ANIMAL SHELTER PROJECT
By Ron Munden -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Yesterday, several people on Facebook said that I have not stated my position on the animal shelter. It is true that I have not yet written anything. I did give an interview to one of the TV stations after the last city commission meeting, but it did not run - so for now my position on the animal shelter is somewhere on the cutting room floor of an ArkLaTex newsroom.
This article is my attempt to clearly state my position in print.
In the TV interview, I said that in my opinion if the city commissioners decide on a bond election rather than using a certificate of obligation, they would be shooting themselves in the foot. In retrospect, I wish I had added “with a shotgun.”
For starters, I agree with the commission vote to go with plan “U,” the larger shelter. Mayor Hurta is correct when he said that plan “U” rather than plan “P” is the only reasonable way for the city to move forward.
The smaller option, plan “P,” has less square feet than the Pet Place in Marshall. The Pet Place takes in 400 animals/year. The Marshall Animal Shelter takes in over 3,000 animals/year. Why would anyone in their right mind think that plan “P,” a space smaller than the Pet Place, can take in almost eight times more animals than the Pet Place and still meet the basic needs of the city? Plan “P” won’t work. Plan “P” will only put lipstick on the pig. It will do little to meet the needs of the community. Again, Mayor Hurta is right. Plan “U” is the only reasonable way to move forward.
Spending $400,000 to $600,000 on plan “P” will be a waste of money. If you're going to continue killing animals at one of the highest kill rates in the nation, you might as well kill them in an ugly building instead of a new pretty building.
If the choice is plan “P” or nothing my vote is for doing NOTHING.
In the past, I've been very critical of the city staff for not being innovative. However, I think the certificate of obligation proposal interim City Manager Jack Redmon presented at the last city commission meeting was outstanding.
In my opinion, Mr. Redmon and his financial team did a creative job of structuring the certificate of obligation so that the city can live within its budget, build the plan “U” animal shelter and complete 14 other capital improvement projects that feels are critical.
When Mr. Redmon completed his presentation, I thought, “This is a no-brainer.” How can any reasonable person not go for this? But this is Marshall, and I am constantly surprised.
So now the city has a path forward. It can build a new animal shelter. The certificate of obligation as identified by the city staff will not increase taxes, and the project can start almost immediately. This is a win-win.
But this is Marshall. Why do it the easy way when there is a longer, more difficult path that may fail?
Now some commissioners are proposing not using the certificate of obligation but instead using a bond to finance the project.
This will require a bond election, so it will slow the process. A bond will definitely increase everyone’s taxes if the election succeeds. If the bond election fails, the city will be back to square one.
And by the way, if the election fails, the city can’t use certificates of obligation for these projects for the next three years. It’s the law.
Also, it will cost the city less money if it uses the certificate of obligation tool instead of a bond.
If the city commission votes for a bond election, everything goes on hold until November and the election.
So why would some commissioners reject the fastest, lowest cost solution and instead head down a risky road that will raise everyone’s taxes and delay the project? I have come up with only two possible reasons -- either they are dumb/uninformed, or they want to kill the animal shelter project.
If the commission votes to use a certificate of obligation, the city is “Off to the Races” on a new animal shelter. Ground can be broken on the project before the end of August. Maybe some commissioners don’t want this.
If the city commission votes for a bond election, everything goes on hold until November’s election. There is no guarantee the project will ever be funded. Maybe some commissioners do want this.
I would bet money if the commissioners decide on a bond election that the citizens will vote “no.” People don’t like to vote to raise their taxes.
Remember that the bond election to remodel the Historic County Courthouse failed, and if it had not been for the generosity of the Carlile Family and many other working people, the Square would be a big parking lot today.
Also, don’t forget the voters recently passed a $109 million school bond. That has left a bitter taste in many voters’ mouths. You think they are going to vote to raise taxes again?
In my opinion, the choice is very simple: the city commission can adopt the innovative certificate of obligation approach and lead the city into the future; or it can decide on a bond election, delay everything and perhaps never fund an animal shelter.
Victory is so close. All the commissioners have to do is vote to use the certificate of obligation approach, and they can declare victory.
What will the commissioners do? Will they snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? Remember... this is Marshall.