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  • Writer's pictureBill Raines

White River Humane Society groundbreaking for $3-4 million facility Wednesday morning

Updated: Aug 31, 2023

MITCHELL - AUGUST 30, 2023 - The White River Humane Society Board of Directors celebrated with a ground breaking of a $3 to $4 million new facility on Wesley Chapel Road on Wednesday.

Photo: Board members of the White River Humane Society hold shovels for the groundbreaking on Wesley Chapel Road between Bedford and Mitchell off Indiana State Road 37

The White River Humane Society, and the late president Buddy Hendricks have been hoping for a new location for a shelter for dogs and cats. It has now come to reality.

Photo: White River Humane Society president Debbie Stailey is excited about the new shelter location.

The new shelter is off State Road 37, providing easy access for the public where they can find it. Many people had a hard time finding us on Pumphouse Road. Some have not even known that we even have had a shelter," said Debbie Stailey, president of White River Humane Society. " We are excited about the next step, and excited for the animals who need a new shelter. The public needs this,"

The current facility on Pumphouse Road was leased to the White River Humane Society for $1 for 50 years back in 1991 from the City of Bedford.

A dog park opened in Bedford a few years ago giving the public a place to walk their pets. It is located by the Bedford Waste Water Treatment Plant. Unpleasant smells have not been pleasant, making the current location not practical.

The White River Humane Society is a Pro-Life Shelter which involves finding 'forever homes' for abandoned , mistreated, lost, or less fortunate pets. In 2022, the White River Humane Society cared for 800 animals. The shelter does not euthanize healthy pets.

" We are estimating a cost of $3 - 4 million to build the new shelter. We are relying on donations to get the building constructed and completed. We do not know how long it will take to complete this project," said Stailey.

A total of $700,000 has been donated to the building fund. The WRHS has reached out to other shelters that have constructed new facilities. Our specific financial goal will be released once the group meets with shelter planners.

Engineer Ron Burchman, has helped with the project, along with attorney Greg Pittman. Dana and Brenda Dunbar donated the property . The Dunbars communicated with the late Buddy Hendricks to obtain this location. Hendricks passed away from cancer before seeing his dream come true.

Today, several supporters were bussed to the ceremony from Speedway to the new building site. The Hillcrest Christian Church and Men's Warming Shelter providing the buses.

Members of both Bedford and Mitchell Chambers of Commerce attended today's event, and supported the WRHS building project.

Many of today's attendees have gotten their current pets, both cats and dogs from the shelter.

" The last two dogs that we have adopted from the WRHS, and the previous three were all rescues. One of them was from a dumpster, one was from Greene County, and a cat that was rescued from another shelter. My last seven adoptions were all rescues," said Mike Shannon owner of WBED 90.1 Bedford, Indiana.

" The program Cause for Paws supports the humane society. You teach people that you do not buy a bunny at Easter, and release them in the woods. You do not buy a little chick at Easter, to leave it to perish. Animals are not toys. Pets are a life long commitment," added Shannon.

One event attendee said" We have supported the WRHS for several years, this is an exciting day for us," said Kathy Davis. " I adopted my cocker spaniel from the Martin County Shelter, but my son got his dog from the WRHS."

Photo: Owner of longtime business Roots RV is concerned about impact on his business

Nearby residents and long time business owner Larry Root of Roots RV who's business sits directly across from the new location, is not happy. He is worried about the impact the shelter will have on his business. Signs are posted along Wesley Chapel Road in front of his business, Roots RV, and the residences of the people who are protesting the location of the new shelter along the road where the new shelter will be located.

During, the speech of WRHS president Debbie Stailey, the song" Who let the Dog's Out" could be heard playing over Root's RV public address system.

Residents and pastor Dwight Dunbar of Work of God Church, says this will have a negative impact on property values in the neighborhood.

The assessed value of Root's RV is approximately $180,000.

Roots pays taxes to local, state and federal governments, but the animal shelter being a non profit organization does not pay taxes. Both Bedford and Mitchell Chambers of Commerce are supporting a non-profit business over a tax paying business. This has caused concerns to some area business owners.

Larry Root has been a large contributor to many non-profits charitable organizations who have asked his business for financial contributions. At this time Larry Root has not responded on the issue to the Lawrence County Zephyr.

Many residents have said, "the time is now to have new Planning and Zoning regulations in Lawrence County to prevent this type of thing impacting our neighborhoods.

Only one county elected leader attended today's ground breaking ceremony. It was Lawrence County Council Vice- President Rick Butterfield.

" I attended this mornings ground breaking to observe the event, but was asked to join the group to break ground on the new facility. I have been in their current facility, and they are long overdue for a new facility. I am humbled and honored to be part of this," said Lawrence County Council Vice- President Rick Butterfield.

Photo: Lawrence County Council Vice- president Rick Butterfield and Mitchell Chamber of Commerce member Don Caudell attended today's ground breaking event

The White River Humane Society has asked for additional funding from the Lawrence County Commissioners, the City of Bedford, the Town of Ooltiic, and the City of Mitchell for the last couple of years.

Currently, the City of Bedford is in negotiations with WRHS for a new agreement with the non-profit. The city is considering an agreement that would span1-3 years. The agreement would include a member of the Bedford city council sitting on the non-profit board that would have oversight of taxpayer's money, and an agreement for an increase in funding from $37,400 a year to something greater.

Bedford city council member Ryan Griffith is serving as an ex-facto member of the WRHS board. During the recent Bedford City Council meeting, president Debbie Stailey asked that Griffith only serve as a liaison between the city and the WRHS.

City officials often transport animals to the current location. It is difficult to measure the increased costs in having to transport animals outside the Bedford city limits and for the after hour transportation costs. The WRHS have resisted efforts of government leaders sitting on the non-profit board.

The daily operational cost of the shelter is currently $887.89. Individuals who may be interested in making a financial donation to the shelter may send a check or money order to: The New Building Fund, WRHS, PO Box 792, Bedford, Indiana 47421.

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Located at 1416 James Avenue Bedford, Indiana

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