Wed, April 01

Valley cities, towns have yet to sign new contract with Humane Society

The deadline has come and gone and no one has signed on the dotted line.

As of today, Verde Valley Humane Society remains without a contract for its shelter services from Camp Verde, Yavapai County and the town of Clarkdale.

Last week, city, town and tribe representatives determined a third party was the best option for a successful resolution to the stand off. The proposition requests that the humane society continue its services while it permits a thorough review of the non-profit's financial records.

In the past, President Gerry Fortier and Director Judy Finch have refused to even meet with city officials to discuss specifics of the contracts or concerns about the shelter's operating procedures.

And when Clarkdale officials made inquiries earlier this month in a public meeting, Fortier responded by rejecting the town's contract for animal services.

But according to city officials, Fortier has now agreed to the participation of a third party to help resolve the shelter's contract dispute.

The new proposal, according to Cottonwood City Manager Brian Mickelsen, allows for a comprehensive review of the shelter's financial health "an informal audit of sorts," that could pay dividends to everyone in years to come.

"We can develop some stability in the rates," Mickelsen explained. "So we're not faced with a situation where we go on for a few years and then they say, 'We're just not getting enough,' and propose a dramatic fee increase."

After reviewing the current profit and loss statements provided by the humane society, Cottonwood Finance Director Rudy Rodriguez said he's puzzled by the organization's accounting methods.

"We can't follow it," he explained. "Their expenses are relatively high in comparison to the amount of donations. "

To Rodriguez, much of it comes down to revenue and expenditures. "Since this is a non-profit we should be able to estimate." In order to assess the shelter's bottom line, Rodriguez has suggested that officials request three years of the shelter's finances to help it "put together a budget with reasonable increases that we can afford."

Although Clarkdale Town Manager Gayle Mabery said her council is now "at a little bit of a loss," since its contract was rejected. She also wants to increase her understanding of the financial challenges facing the humane society.

"We still have some questions," she explained. "We would like a better explanation of the budget figures and how they arrived at those."

VVHS has requested substantial increases for its shelter services from surrounding communities, boosting its annual fees anywhere from 56 to 122 percent. Yearly contracts between the shelter and the Tribe, Clarkdale and Camp Verde expired June 30.

VVHS also requested a revision to its 25-year lease with Cottonwood to reflect its increased fee structure, a request Rodriguez contends justifies the cities proposal for the shelter's financial statements.

"As public servants we should be able to be privy to that type of information since we are part of their funding," said Rodriguez.

As for Clarkdale Council members, Mabery said they haven't made any "firm decisions," regarding its animal shelter requirements. According to Mayor Andy Vircsik, temporary kennels will be used to house impounded animals while the council considers a viable option.

The Verde Valley Humane Society refuses to provide comments to the local media.

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