In a presentation to the Wasco County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday, Kris Boler, executive director of Home at Last Humane Society, formally requested the county “gift the [animal shelter] property and facility at 200 River Road with a reversionary clause.”
Both the county and the port own portions of the land currently being used by Home at Last, with the county owning the main facility. For many years, the board has allowed them to occupy the space completely free of charge, a generosity without which, Boler said, “we simply would not exist.”
In 2011, Home at Last received $100,000 in funding from the county. In 2012, this number decreased to $80,999, while in 2013 they were awarded just $18,754.
However, according to the Home at Last proposal, the organization understands that the county has seen significant budget cuts in recent years as well.
Both Boler and commissioners seemed to agree that these dwindling numbers also coincided with Home at Last’s increasing independence as a business organization. When Boler came to the board, it wasn’t to dispute the fairness of these figures, but to ask that the terms upon which the organization occupies the property be re-negotiated.
Home at Last does a lot for the local community, Boler told the commissioners. They provide housing for homeless animals all across Wasco County, palong with low-cost spay and neutering and a chance at full rehabilitation and a loving home.
Boler also said the Home at Last had “adopted out” about 520 animals and successfully returned 181 to their original owners so far this eyar, 87 percent of these coming from Wasco County.”
Home at Last has conducted close to 250 procedures and provided about 100 vaccinations to animals in need just over the past year. They even send cat and dog food with Meals on Wheels when the organization makes deliveries to local seniors in order to ensure pets eat as well as their owners.
As a result of the reduced funding and the organization’s desire to be “a stable organization that is valued by our community and is worthy of investment,” Boler said Home at Last must now “look to other sources for financial support.”
One of these potential sources could be funding received from specific foundations. However, according to Boler, Home at Last’s chances of obtaining this type of funding would be “greatly increased” if the humane society were to independently own both the land and facility in full.
“In addition to improving our organization’s security,” Diana Bailey, acting president of the Home at Last Board of Directors, said, “we also need to increase the amount of time we would have to relocate if, for whatever reason, we were forced to vacate the property.”
What Bailey was referring to is that, according to the existing lease, if the organization were ever informed they had to move, they would be required to do so within a 90-day period. “It would be almost impossible,” Boler said, “to find a new space and move all the animals safely in such a short amount of time.”
Bailey said the board has been concerned with these and other potentially difficult situations the current terms of the lease would put workers and animals in difficulty if the need for such a quick transition arose.
“We just want to ensure the safety of our animals and the well-being of our people,” Bailey said. “That’s all.”
“We’re incredibly grateful to the county for allowing us to occupy the space and giving us so much support over the years,” Boler said, “but we also think these are important issues that need to be resolved.”
County Commissioner Rod Runyon said that the current proposal to obtain the property appeared “still in its beginning stages” and that the board would require more concrete documentation to provide a clearer perspective on these issues before the discussion would be able to move forward.