PAUL — Authorities are close to hashing out how to oversee hundreds of thousands of dollars left to the Minidoka County animal shelter in a hand-written will.
Diane Marie Gellings, 64, died June 8 at her home. She left the house and more than 7 acres of property with outbuildings to the shelter.
“My hopes are to distribute the bulk of the money by January,” said Don Chisholm, an attorney for Gellings’ estate.
The sale of the estate brought in more than $300,000 — a windfall for a shelter that’s operated on a shoestring budget for years.
“That should go a long ways in making it better for the dogs in the Minidoka County shelter that are stray or abandoned,” Chisholm said.
Now, the question is how to allocate and oversee the cash from the sale of the estate.
The lawyer originally proposed that the members of the Minidoka County Joint Powers Animal Control board serve as board members for the Minidoka County Animal Shelter Trust that has been formed to control the money.
The lawyer’s latest proposal asks the county commissioners to appoint three board members not on the animal control board and with staggered terms, so there will always be people on the board with experience. No two members can be appointed from the same city.
The trust agreement also states that the money is to be used to construct or improve facilities, equipment for personnel or veterinary care and to avoid euthanasia when possible. The trustees have to obtain a tax-exemption status so the money will not be taxed and taxable deductions can be accepted by the trust.
Chisholm said in a document sent to commissioners on Oct. 19 that there is a consensus among the parties that a smaller board would operate more efficiently.
“I haven’t had any direct feedback from the commissioners yet,” he said.
Gellings left the property to the Minidoka County dog pound, which does not exist, and the joint powers board, which consists of members from the cities of Rupert, Heyburn, Paul, Minidoka and Acequia along with the county, could not receive the property.
Chisholm hopes to get the agreement signed in November and have board members appointed in December.
“It’s going to make a really huge impact for animal control,” Rupert Administrator Kelly Anthon said.
Rupert took over the animal shelter in 2012 after a few rocky years left it almost bankrupt. The city moved the shelter from Paul to a city-owned building in Rupert.
The $90,000 budget that comes from contributions from each governing entity runs on a shoestring, Anthon said.
“I agonize over the budget and keep a close eye on it,” Anthon said.
Last year, he said, the shelter had one of the lowest euthanasia rates in the country, under 1 percent.
“The shelter only puts down dogs that are injured or dying,” Anthon said.
The lower euthanasia rates is not only good for the dogs but also saves money, he said.
The shelter has also worked to get more dogs adopted locally, which went from 13 percent in 2014 to 35 percent last year.
Anthon said once a board is established for the Gellings trust, it will determine how the money is used. The money will likely be used for capital improvements and a new building has not been ruled out.
“The truth is the building it’s in now is a workable facility,” the administrator said, “but it was never meant for the long term.”
But there will be no rash decisions to build something new, he emphasized.
Said Anthon: “This money should help animal control for decades.”