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Longview city officials at odds over animal shelter

By Christina Lane
Feb. 23, 2012 at 10 p.m.

Longview's mayor and the Humane Society of Northeast Texas' board president said Thursday that there are no plans for the animal shelter to turn over its property and assets to the city.

District 1 City Councilman John Sims said the humane society's board told him at a meeting a week ago that it was interested in turning over the shelter and its assets to the city. According to Sims, the board also told him it had made the same offer to Mayor Jay Dean months ago.

"They all spoke up and said we have already made that offer to the mayor," Sims said. "Me and I guess none of the other council members knew anything about that. We weren't told. I feel like the city should take over that animal shelter."

Dean and Susan Mazarakes-Gill, board president of the Humane Society of Northeast Texas, said Sims' story simply is not true.

"John Sims mentioned that to me one day this week. I told him it didn't happen," Dean said.

"Nobody from the animal shelter, the humane society or any of the other various organizations that deal with animal welfare in our community made such an offer. If they had, I would have advised them that it's probably illegal.

"But the fact is that it just never happened. Mr. Sims is confused with this story. Hopefully he'll get his facts straight."

Sims said he was asked to attend a board meeting of the humane society on Feb. 14. He said the board showed him its financial statements and said the organization does not have much money.

"I've been pretty harsh about them killing the dogs like they have," Sims said. "The lady running the shelter now, I am convinced is trying to do the best job she can. And I'm convinced the board is trying to do the best job they can - but they're broke."

Sims said that after the meeting ended, Mazarakes-Gill asked him if he would like to say anything to the board. Sims said he asked the board if it would be willing to turn over its assets and that the board said yes.

"We did not say anything about the city taking over our shelter. That's just not true," Mazarakes-Gill said. "We never offered to turn over any of our assets."

Mazarakes-Gill said as a nonprofit organization, the humane society would only be permitted to turn over its property to another nonprofit organization.

"He said the city wants to enter a public-private partnership for a shelter," she said. "We told him we would discuss that, but we did not agree to that either."

The humane society's board believes a new shelter or an additional shelter is needed, and Mazarakes-Gill said the board would like to partner with other entities to build a new one.

Sims said he wants the city to go to the voters to see if taxpayers would support a bond issue for another shelter.

"I just don't feel like we're handling this right," Sims said. "I'm very upset that we aren't doing something about the neglect of our animals. Other cities own the animal shelters in their towns, why don't we. It's a mess right now."



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