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City of Port St. Lucie considers giving Humane Society of St. Lucie County a 'fresh start'

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Posted at 10:56 PM, Nov 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-19 04:13:46-05

ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. — ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. -- New leadership with the Humane Society of St. Lucie County is asking the City of Port St. Lucie for a second chance.

Less than two months after city commissioners voted to end their contract with the Humane Society of St. Lucie County, the shelter is asking for a "fresh start" in the form of a two-year turnaround plan.

In a special meeting Monday, Humane Society of St. Lucie County board chair, Melissa McInturff, presented her fresh start proposal. McInturff said new leadership “is working diligently to restore the public’s opinion and support of the Society using transparency as our ally rather than our enemy… We do not want to forget the Society’s sordid past. We have learned from it and will continue to institute changes as a result of it.”

The plan calls, in part, for the following:

-The City of Port St. Lucie would make a one-time capital contribution of up to $150,000 to bring the Humane Society current on all its liabilities. It would be secured through a second mortgage on the Glades Cut Off Road location, currently facing foreclosure.

-The current board of directors would resign and city leaders would be able to appoint board members of their choice.

-The City would cover any cash-based operating losses at the Humane Society. The city could use this as a credit against any costs of services provided by the Humane Society to the City.

-The Humane Society will implement as many changes as possible that were recommended in the Best Friends Animal Society review.

-The Humane Society will pursue private fundraising efforts.

RELATED: Temporary animal shelter opens as contracts expire with Humane Society of St. Lucie County

-After two years, one seat on the Board of Directors for the shelter will be filled by the Mayor of Port St. Lucie or the Mayor's own designee.

“It was a very huge step today...I think there’s hope for the Humane Society of St. Lucie County again,” McInturff said. City leaders will revisit the option in December.

Mayor Greg Oravec described the humane society’s current financial situation as a "death spiral."

This month, the Humane Society of St. Lucie County was evicted from its Fort Pierce location. The City of Fort Pierce is actively conducting repairs on the property.

The Port St. Lucie location is facing foreclosure.

McInturff says she only has the funds to make payroll one more time.

A criminal investigation at the Fort Pierce location closed this month, with the State Attorneys Office deciding not to pursue criminal charges. The investigative report instead made note of serious operational issues.

McInturff says she is aware there is work to do to rebuild the shelter’s reputation.

“Sometimes that task seems insurmountable. But, I think with the City of Port St. Lucie’s support and the ongoing community’s support, and new supporters, we can do it. We can do it big, and we can do it well.”

Fort Pierce city leaders, including City Manager Nick Mimms, say they were unaware that the Humane Society of St. Lucie County was presenting a proposal to start over with the City of Port St. Lucie.

Currently, Port St. Lucie, Fort Pierce, and St. Lucie County are using a temporary shelter near the Treasure Coast International Airport until a new, permanent operator is secured.

Mimms says he still intends to move forward with a unified contract between Fort Pierce, St. Lucie County, and Port St. Lucie for future animal services.

He does not know how a future contract would be affected if Port St. Lucie makes a separate contract with the Humane Society of St. Lucie County. McInturff is only asking Port St. Lucie to consider utilizing their services again.