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Group tired of waiting for Sutter animal shelter
They're polite. They wait their turn. They're reluctant to shout.
The founding members of Build Our Sutter Animal Shelter — a group dominated by senior citizens — are an unlikely bunch to be staging protest rallies.
But former members of the Sutter County grand jury say they are tired of waiting for a new animal shelter to be built.
"I'm not an animal activist at all," said Vera Crabtree, 69, who waved a sign reading "The nightmare continues as our animals die," prior to the Sutter Animal Services Authority meeting on Monday in Yuba City.
"It's the first time I've ever held up a sign, so if I'm doing it wrong, I apologize," she said.
Hal Beeso, 80, said that he, too, is a bit of a novice at public demonstrations.
"But what I saw two years ago," he said of his first visit to the hellish animal shelter a few blocks away, "that really moved me. It was awful."
The facility has since made improvements.
But overcrowding and other shortcomings of the outdated facility still ensure that animals unfortunate enough to wind up there get a very lousy deal, Beeso said.
The new advocacy group has enlisted members of the Sutter County Taxpayers Association, Yuba-Sutter Tea Party Patriots, local animal welfare organizations — and anyone else willing to show up to a government meeting at 1 p.m. on a Monday — to stand up and say they are tired of waiting for a new animal shelter to be built.
Last week, the group began circulating a petition calling for the animal authority — made up of elected officials and administrators from Yuba City, Sutter County and Live Oak — to resolve their differences and begin construction on the project, which has been under discussion for eight years.
They had collected more than 500 signatures prior to the authority meeting.
"No more excuses," read one of the demonstrator's signs Monday. "Get this shelter done."
Terms of transferring employees from the county to Yuba City's payroll recently became a legal issue, according to City Administrator Steve Jepsen.
The issue has put the start of construction of the new $5 million facility on hold.
Administrators agreed Monday to meet in the coming weeks and try to reach some form of compromise so the project can move forward.
Authority Chairman Gary Baland, mayor of Live Oak, said the problem represented "a road block, or at least a speed bump."
"It will require additional work to resolve," said Sutter County Interim Administrator Shawne Corley.
More than 40 Build Our Sutter Animal Shelter members attended Monday's meeting and waited patiently through nearly an a hour and a half of rehashing from the authority board members and administrators.
Vietnam veteran and former grand juror Tom Bethards, 65, finally took his turn at the podium.
He said he had recently gone to Plumas Street to solicit signatures for the group's petition. He visited the Town Pump, a watering hole.
"It was 10 in the morning, and people were drinking beer," he said.
The bar's patrons engaged him in a discussion about reasons for the shelter project's cost, Bethards said. Eventually, they signed the petition and encouraged other patrons to do so.
Bethards urged the board to compromise, accept blame for past mistakes and proceed with the new shelter.
Beeso wore his Vietnam veteran cap on Monday. After serving on the grand jury that published a scathing animal shelter report last year, he recently began work as a volunteer at the facility.
On Monday, he beseeched the board with a familiar refrain.
"I'm praying you can get this done before my time expires," he said.
Gretchen Cupp, who represents Yuba-Sutter Domestic Animal Disaster Assistance, said she believes turnout at Monday's meeting reflects the community's concern about the animal shelter.
"When you have animal welfare groups and the Sutter County Taxpayer's Association at the same meeting, it's obviously a big honkin' deal to a lot of people," she said.