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Council tables animal control funds to work on compromise

After some three years of debate over funding for an animal control facility, with only rejection in sight, the Harrison County Council last night held out the proverbial olive branch. The council tabled the commissioners’ latest request for $513,000 to construct a facility in hopes of reaching a compromise.
Councilman Kenneth Saulman’s motion to table the request, seconded by Councilwoman Rhonda Rhoads, included the provision: “to give the council time to work with the county commissioners … to work out a compromise.”
With practically no discussion — the matter was debated at the council’s last meeting May 13 — the motion passed 5-1, with Alvin Brown, Carl Duley and Ralph Sherman also voting in support. Councilman Carl (Buck) Mathes cast the dissenting vote. He has been in favor of passing the commissioners’ plan, while the majority has held out for a less expensive version. “Tabling a motion is an automatic ‘no’ vote,” he said later.
Following the council’s session, council chair Gary Davis said an executive (closed to the public) session may be called between the two boards, if the council’s attorney deems that appropriate under Indiana’s Open Door law.
“There are many things to talk about, and if we do it in an open meeting, we’ll never get it done,” he said. “We’ve been debating it in public for three years and we haven’t gotten any closer together.
“Maybe if we sit down and talk, we might bridge this gap.”
If that happens, the council must post a notice of the closed meeting and its purpose 48 hours in advance, and notify the press. The same applies if a special meeting that is open to the public is called, except when certain emergencies arise. If the meeting is closed, then any final action, such as a vote, must take place later in an open meeting.
Terry L. Miller, chair of the commissioners, said the three commissioners are more than willing to work toward a compromise. “I’m glad to see they have come off the $300,000,” he said, noting that the oft-repeated demand to keep the project within that amount wasn’t mentioned last night.
“I think it’s positive,” he said of the council’s action. “They said ‘compromise,’ so we’re willing to sit down and talk.”
He added: “We’re not scared to debate it in public.”
The council and commissioners will call the meeting jointly, he said.
Davis said the council’s goal is to meet in joint session prior to the council’s next meeting on June 10.
Gloria Scott, president of HEART, which promotes the commissioners’ plans for the facility because it meets acceptable standards of national and state humane societies, also saw the council’s action last night as a positive step.
“I think it would be wonderful if the council and commissioners would meet in special session,” said Scott, who has been at the ‘heart’ of the controversy for 6-1/2-years. “Maybe they could hammer out a solution and get this settled once and for all.”