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County, shelter at odds over mold issue

October 29, 2012
By Jason Raiche - staff writer ( , Daily Press

ESCANABA - Negotiations are ongoing between Delta County and the Delta Animal Shelter regarding a mold issue in the shelter's building.

The Delta County Board of Commissioners and representatives from the Delta Animal Shelter have been meeting for approximately one year to discuss the issue, but no solution has been reached.

The shelter began operations independent from the previously county-run facility in August 2011, when members of the Delta Area Animal Society entered a lease agreement with the county to operate the building.

According to Delta Animal Shelter Manager Sue Gartland, the shelter's mold problem is located in the attic of the building and electrical wires located there are unsafe and pose a potential fire hazard.

"Our biggest concern is it's been over a year that we have known about the mold," said Gartland. "It poses a health concern for our animals, for the staff that work here, all the volunteers and the public coming in."

Gartland believes it's the county's responsibility to fix the problem.

"We rent this building, so it's the landlord's obligation per the contract to fix it and they're not," she said, noting the shelter would also like to make some renovations to the building, but cannot due to the terms of its lease agreement.

The shelter has since offered to purchase the building, fix the mold issue themselves, and expand the shelter to make it more "adoption-friendly," according to Gartland. This would include plans for a new procedure room and rooms for socializing with animals.

"Our investment into the animal shelter is significant, but right now we don't have any options because we don't own the building and if they don't sell it to us, we're forced to start from scratch," she said, adding the county had previously given them a contract to sell them the building which had specific "non-agreeable terms."

"They would only sell us the building, but ... they would lease the land to us," she said. "After five years anything on the land they could sell, which obviously we would not make an investment to fix the mold if the building or land could be sold out from under us."

Delta County Administrator Nora Viau said this is untrue, and that the county would merely revisit the lease every five years. Since the mold issue has been discussed, Viau confirmed there are still major negotiations taking place, but said the county has set aside some funding for remediation to fix the mold issue.

According to Gartland, since meeting with the county again, the shelter's two options were to purchase the land and the building, which the county turned down, or to purchase the land with a long-term lease on the property. However, they do have a back-up plan in place.

"We are waiting to hear back from them on the certain specifics of that contract, but we are also looking at the option of possibly going elsewhere," said Gartland. "We are exploring real estate right now because we cannot continue to stay in a building that is that unsafe, with both the mold issue and the fire issue."

Viau said the opposite - that the county is now waiting to hear back from animal shelter representatives.

"Since Oct. 18, we're waiting to hear from them," she said, noting on that date an email had been sent to shelter representatives in regard to submitting their terms and wording for the contract to purchase the building. She said though the county would not sell them the property, instead opting to lease it to them, the county is willing to sell them the building.

"If the county was approached, the county would always consider that because we will always look at what's best for the county as a whole," said Viau.

Gartland said she wishes the mold problem had been solved months ago.

"I was very optimistic that they would sell us the building so that we could solve the problem, but it looks like that is still up in the air in negotiations," she said. "From our perspective, it is our responsibility to advocate for the animals and I feel this is a road-block to doing that."



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