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Speaking out on long-delayed animal shelter
Vegetation has been cleared, and new fencing and surveying equipment have been spotted at the site of a yet-to-be-built regional animal shelter on Garden Highway.
But new battles on a governing board with eight years of political baggage behind it drew a long and diverse lineup of speakers to a monthly meeting Monday, as well as a handful of demonstrators.
"How many animals have suffered and died through this," said former grand jury member Linda Peterson on Monday of the troubled and badly overcrowded Second Street animal shelter in Yuba City at the heart of the project.
Peterson was one of five demonstrators who stood outside the Sutter County supervisors' chambers, just blocks away from the existing shelter facility, prior to the meeting.
The signs called attention to the plight of dogs and cats at that shelter, to last year's scathing grand jury report, and to the political fights that have delayed progress on the new shelter.
That shelter, which was scheduled to break ground at the end of the month, still will get under way as soon as construction contracts are signed and a new SASA attorney is appointed, according to the board's members.
On the agenda Monday was the recusal of Sutter County's attorney who has also served as SASA counsel for the 15 months since its official formation.
"A conflict of inflict has arisen," Shawne Corley, the interim county administrator, acknowledged.
"How long will it take and what's our potential liability?" pressed Elaine Miles of the Sutter County Taxpayers Association. "I think we need to know that."
The latest trouble concerns part of the joint powers authority document upon which SASA has operated for the last 15 months.
City Manager Steve Jepsen called the agreement, which calls for shelter employees to be transferred from the county to the city's employ, "the core issue that is holding this up."
Both county and city attorneys have weighed in already on the matter.
Yuba City is set to take over animal shelter operations once the new facility is completed.
Jepsen said last week he doesn't want to accept employees who contributed to the dysfunction detailed in a gruesome grand jury report issued last year.
But the union that represents county employees — Sutter/Yuba County Employees' Association Local #1 — recently assumed representation for city employees as well.
In what was a near full-house meeting for the first time in SASA's existence, Monday brought interested parties of all stripes forward to weigh in the history and future of the county's animal care issues.
Ron Sullenger, who is running for a county supervisors' position, said his would-be constituents were troubled by the price tag for the new shelter project, which is expected to cost roughly $5 million for construction alone.
"I'm here to tell you that the people don't understand all the particulars of the problem," he siad. "They don't understand why it costs so much."
Representatives of both the Sutter County Taxpayers' Association and Tea Party Patriots spoke up, however, to encourage the shelter project to move forward.
The current shelter, said Stephanie Ruscigno of the Tea Party Patriots, "was way too small," when it was first built in the 1980s, she said.
Wasting more time and money is a waste of taxpayer money, she said after the meeting. "This needs to get done."
County Supervisor Jim Whiteaker, who had been involved in a failed iteration of the board several years ago, filled in Monday for an absent Larry Munger.
He spoke to the difficulty of working with multiple jurisdictions on a regional project. SASA is made up of elected officials from Yuba City, Sutter County and Live Oak.
"I've spent a lot of time on the animal shelter issue," he said. "It just doesn't happen overnight."
CONTACT Nancy Pasternack at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-4781. Find her on Facebook at /ADnpasternack or on Twitter at @ADnpasternack.