MOAS sends notice of contract cancellation to Oglethorpe County after nine months of failed contract negotiations

MOAS has sought to update their contract with Oglethorpe County for the past nine months in order to bring Oglethorpe County’s terms in line with those Madison County has agreed to since 2016, primarily a $0.25 per person increase and use of the latest census data. However, with no response from the commissioners since May 2, 2019, MOAS has been forced to send notice of cancellation as the terms of the original contract signed in 2002 no longer provide adequate compensation.

Danielsville, GA: The Madison-Oglethorpe Animal Shelter (MOAS) has served both Madison and Oglethorpe counties since the early 2000’s, governed by a contract signed in 2002 that required both counties to pay $3.00 per citizen based on the 2000 census data. MOAS did not receive an increase in this rate until Madison County agreed to pay $3.25 per capita in 2016. Oglethorpe County has not increased their rate in any way over the past 17 years and continues to utilize the outdated 2000 census data in calculating its fees owed, despite rising inflation costs and increased use of the shelter. Last year, MOAS took in over 3,000 animals between both counties. While Oglethorpe County accounts for approximately 25% of the animals that come to the shelter, their annual payment – $38,000 – only accounts for 8% of the shelter’s operating costs. Care for that many animals is expensive as each animal that comes into the shelter must be impounded and given appropriate vaccines and medical treatment both for the health of that animal and to protect the rest of the shelter population from exposure. While using the latest census data and increasing the per capita rate to $3.25 per citizen (roughly $10,000 more than Oglethorpe County is paying now) would not even come close to covering the true costs of the animals that come from Oglethorpe County, it would be a start.

Further compounding this issue, Oglethorpe County defaulted on their semi-annual payment of $19,000 on July 1, 2018, and refused to pay until October 2018. Throughout this time, MOAS continued to honor the terms of the contract and incurred substantial expenses intaking Oglethorpe County animals. Following that default, MOAS has repeatedly asked to update their contract and submitted multiple draft contracts to Oglethorpe County leadership. Initially, MOAS asked for only three substantive changes: 1) an $0.25 per capita increase, 2) that the contract be updated to utilize the latest census data, and 3) that certain long unused audit provisions be modified. The MOAS Board sent letters to Chairman Pittard and other Oglethorpe County leadership on December 27, 2018, February 14, 2019, and April 17, 2019, each time requesting an updated contract based on the terms outlined above.

After nine months of negotiating, when even the initial minimal terms had not been accepted, MOAS insisted instead on an additional automatic annual increase of 3% in an effort to account for inflation and to begin to address the lack of increases over the past 17 years and to avoid unreasonably lengthy contract negotiations in the future. The MOAS Board sent a letter to all of the Oglethorpe County Commissioners on May 23, 2019, with yet another draft contract and a request that Oglethorpe County respond by June 7, 2019, at least to indicate whether they would like to continue negotiations or not. Yet again hearing no response from Oglethorpe County, the MOAS Board voted at their regularly scheduled board meeting on June 13, 2019, to send an official notice of cancellation to Oglethorpe County. MOAS’ contract requires 90 days’ notice of cancellation. As a result, the Oglethorpe County contract will be canceled as of September 15, 2019, if no alternative agreement can be reached in the interim.

As MOAS’ current contract draws to a close over the next ninety days, the MOAS Board remains committed to working with Oglethorpe County as much as possible. In 2019, the Board has taken great strides to reach out to and support the citizens of Oglethorpe County, including hosting a low-cost vaccine clinic in Lexington, Georgia; securing a $23,000 grant to provide 800 free spay/neuter surgeries to Madison and Oglethorpe residents; and by most recently bringing the 6th Annual Bark and Wine (MOAS’ largest fundraiser of the year) to Oglethorpe County at the Historic Smithonia Farm. The Board also remains concerned that if the commissioners allow the contract to expire Oglethorpe County citizens will have no other alternative should they find a stray or feral animal or need to surrender an animal of their own. The Board wants to continue to be a resource for Oglethorpe County citizens and their animals; but unfortunately, MOAS cannot continue operating with the current level of inadequate funding that it receives from Oglethorpe County. Should no new contract be agreed upon, the Board would like to remind Oglethorpe County residents that all other services, including MOAS’ low-cost vaccine and spay/neuter clinics, would still be available to them.

The Board sincerely hopes that Oglethorpe County will work in good faith with the shelter to agree to a new contract that will address the shelter’s concerns and allow it to secure much-needed funding so that it may continue to provide intake services to Oglethorpe County citizens and their animals. The Board encourages all concerned citizens to speak with their commissioners and urge them to support the shelter.

 About MOAS: Madison-Oglethorpe Animal Shelter (MOAS) is an open-intake, largely donor-supported shelter committed to saving as many animals as possible while working to reduce pet overpopulation.  MOAS plays a critical role in the region by providing, among other things, one of the only locations where pet owners can take advantage of regular low-cost vaccine and spay/neuter clinics. MOAS is also committed to supporting the neediest families in the region through low-cost clinics and a free community food bank. MOAS takes in approximately 3,000 animals each year and relies on community support to ensure that these animals have the best possible outcomes.