COLUMN: If Ann comes back, judge, watch out

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By Mary Garrison

If Steve Cornish is feeling haunted lately, I know a likely suspect.

The way things have been going between the county judge-executive and the Anderson Humane Society, I'm surprised Ann Garrison hasn't exploded from her place in Lawrenceburg Cemetery and planted herself permanently in Cornish's office.

Decades ago, my mother-in-law founded the local Humane Society on sheer determination. Ann understood our duty as a compassionate society to look out for those among us who are unable to care for themselves.

Unfortunately, Cornish appears to have missed that lesson. He seems to think lost and abandoned animals should carry their own weight - and nearly $8,000 of the county's debt.

Maybe our county is in such a desperate financial state that we now must consider charging rent to the non-profit organization whose volunteers take care of these animals, the same group that saves the county from paying to staff its own adoption center.

But ask yourself this: Even if we've sacrificed our sense of civic responsibility to chase a few hundred dollars, should the Humane Society be forced to pay rent on a building that exists only because of the efforts of its volunteers?

If someone were trying to convince you that those Humane Society slackers need to throw some cash in the county's coffers, he might take advantage of the fact that you haven't followed the intimate details of the group's workings in the past few years.

He might tell you that the newest animal shelter building was built with a grant that the county received for that purpose. But what he might forget to mention is that Humane Society members wrote the grant request.

Maybe our county is so cash-strapped that we can't afford to repay a $7,700 loan from the Humane Society that we've ignored for more than two years. Even if that were true, most of us don't make it through life without learning that indigence is not an excuse for avoiding our debts.

If the county's budget is in such horrible shape that non-payment is an option, then it's probably OK if we gas- and mortgage-poor citizens adopt the same strategy. County property taxes would be a good place to start - because surely the judge-executive will understand our predicament.

To their credit, our magistrates know their financial responsibility. They voted unanimously to repay the Humane Society. Cornish cast the court's lone dissenting vote. To ensure that we remember exactly where he stands, he voted "absolutely no."

I suggest, though, that the magistrates and the citizens of this county continue to watch the Humane Society's mailbox for that check. And, magistrates, you also should think about setting a repayment deadline.

In the meantime, I'll keep an eye out for Ann. If she shows up, she's not going to be happy.