OUR VIEW: BMHA resolution needed

By Observer editorial February 24, 2014 08:22 am

A look at our editorial page over the past few months has left some readers wondering what exactly is going on between Union County and the Blue Mountain Humane Association.

What we know is that the entities have not been able to reach a new operating agreement. Last fall that caused the City of La Grande to withhold funding it had allocated for the shelter.

We know that representatives from the county met with representatives from the humane association in a mediation session this month, but because legal counsels have been involved little more information is available to the public.

Following an executive session of the Union County Board of Commissioners in January, Administrative Officer Shelley Burgess gave a report on the matter. “I’d just like to report that in executive session I briefed commissioners on the status of our attempts to resolve the concerns with the operating agreement for the animal shelter between Union County and Blue Mountain Humane Association, and reported that a mediation session has been scheduled,” she said.

It’s obvious our citizens are concerned about this relationship and would like to see both find a resolution. The Blue Mountain Humane Association offers a local place for the Union County Animal Control to take animals. And we don’t doubt the value of having somewhere to adopt rescued animals in the area.

Some may be wondering, what’s the hold up? Well, Union County owns the building that houses the shelter, though the land was bequeathed to BMHA, a county commissioner said last week. The shelter also handles dog licenses for the county, which is public money. The county has a vested interested in assuring that the shelter’s operations meet regulation standards for nonprofits and that public money is being spent properly.

We, like many of our readers, know this is an important topic to our community and have been monitoring it as we can.  When the shelter transitioned to a high-save facility we know there was some strife. This, as far as we can tell, has nothing to do with the type of shelter operating in Union County.  This isn’t about philosophical differences between supporters and opponents of high-save facilities. This is about accountability and maintaining a relationship to continue to bring important services to the community.

For now, the shelter and county are operating under their previous agreement. Animal control can still take animals to the shelter and residents are still adopting pets from Blue Mountain Humane Association. However, as a nonprofit, the shelter needs those partnership funds from the county and city. A new agreement will not only keep services in place but will also allow the shelter access to those monies.

Hopefully this situation will be resolved soon and can reunite some community members who have felt the need to pick sides. Many people have an interest in the future of this shelter and reaching an agreement will be a win for the whole community.