Ten months the county revived its advisory board to the Porter County Animal
Shelter, the County Commissioners undid the deed Tuesday with a 3-0 vote.
With two more tendered resignations from board president Toni Bianchi and
member and County Council representative Laura Blaney, the Animal Shelter
Advisory Board had been whittled down to three voting members this week.
County Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, said the board, which
started off with seven voting seats, now lacks a quorum and is unable to
“Therefore, I recommend that we disband the Animal Shelter Advisory Board,”
said Evans in a statement during Tuesday’s county commissioner meeting with
fellow commissioners Nancy Adams, R-Center, and Carole Knoblock, D-South,
voting in agreement.
The board was reformed last September to provide recommendations to the
Commissioners about the day-to-day operating policies and procedures at the
Shelter. Evans acknowledged the board had made significant improvements and
said he was grateful for all the contributions they made over the months.
Disputes between board members began two weeks ago when the Commissioners
announced their intention of starting talks with the Lakeshore PAWS about a
possible deal to have the county provide the land and allow the organization
to build a new Shelter facility with their own funds. According to the
letter of intent, Lakeshore PAWS would be handling the operations. The
county sheriff’s department would still be in charge of county animal
Board members Dawn Garmon, Rachael Jones and Ella Holst last week said they
had not been included in discussions for the potential partnership and
started listing questions they felt should be addressed such as would
Lakeshore PAWS be able to run an animal shelter since it is only a rescue
facility and whether the recommendations made in a feasibility study done by
Shelter Planners of America were still under consideration.
Holst said she did not want the county to take its eyes off the task of
getting another shelter built, fearing the talks with Lakeshore PAWS would
steer away from that. Jones echoed comments made at the previous County
Council meeting that the county needs to be open to other options.
However, Evans said that he would advise against the idea to “plow ahead”
and build a $3 million shelter with taxpayer money when the Commissioners
are negotiating the possibility that would cost taxpayers “zero” dollars. He
added that more money saving ventures could be included with a “transfer of
daily management” to the non-profit Lakeshore PAWS.
“It is shortsighted and irresponsible to make any judgment of decision
before fully exploring this opportunity,” said Evans. “This negative
behavior is counter-productive to our negotiations. It cannot be allowed to
derail the potential benefits to the taxpayers and the animals.”
Blaney told the Tribune the Shelter Board has been outstanding in
their effort to help Shelter director Jon Thomas turn the troubled facility
around, but said the board had ultimately suffered from a lack of trust
among the members, which is why she decided to resign.
“I think the board did a ton of really good work where help was needed, but
it is time to turn the focus to a private partnership” she said.
Lakeshore PAWS president and co-founder Jeanne Sommer was one of the
original Shelter board members who had resigned days before the partnership
discussions were announced. Sommer said she left the board due to time
Blaney will however continue to be part of the negotiating team, which also
includes a private donor who is offering to match funds that are raised.
Garmon said that she stands by the message of last week’s Shelter Board
meeting where board members said they wanted to have the opportunity to
evaluate the potential decision with Lakeshore PAWS and bring their concerns
to the commissioners.