"Could it be criticized as frivolous spending? Sure," Commissioner Steve Shepard said, moments before joining other Augusta Public Safety Committee members in approving $13,450 for the Richmond County Animal Shelter.
The proposed spending is broken into three areas: $9,000 for computer equipment so the shelter can keep better track of its animals, $3,950 for a private study of the shelter's policies and procedures and $450 for a monument to be erected at the city landfill in honor of killed animals.
The computer equipment is justified. Recently, two pets were accidentally killed due to tag problems or misunderstandings and computers could help shelter director Dr. Bonnie Bragdon monitor the animals better.
But the $3,950 study is a waste. If there is public money to spare, put it into a spay-neuter program, because that's the heart of the problem.
People buy dogs and cats but often lack the money or incentive to get their pets fixed. Year after year, they litter the city with unwanted and abandoned pets. Some 8,000 animals are euthanized at the shelter every year. This is a problem that originates with the public, not with the shelter. The city shouldn't pay a dime for a study of the shelter's procedures.
Then there's the $450 for the dog monument, clearly a gesture of regret to the fellow whose pet was recently impounded and killed after being incorrectly identified at the shelter.
The Augusta Commission should turn down this idea when it comes before the full panel. The money, $450, isn't a lot in a multi-million city budget, but it's disrespectful to taxpayers to use public funds to build a monument to stray pets.
Moreover, taking it from the public works department's budget is a joke - that's the department that has still not come up with the commission's requested 3.5 percent budget cuts for this fiscal year. That's right, the fiscal year we're almost halfway through.