"Now mister the day the lottery I win I ain't ever gonna ride in no used car again." — Bruce Springsteen
Most of us have experienced that feeling where we bring our beat-up vehicle to the car lot.
The salesman looks at our car and offers us $500 for a vehicle that's worth $2,500.
But only 20 yards away is that shiny, new vehicle we want with all our heart. And our current vehicle? Well, we never did get all the crumbs from between the seats when we knocked over that box of Cheez-its. Two of the lights in the interior aren't working and the tires are just about bald. The driveway has a big patch from leaking oil, and that darned "Check engine" light never stops flashing at us.
Take it away, please!
We grab the $500 and kiss off the old. In with the new.
It doesn't matter we could invest $1,500 and make our old vehicle worth $4,500 for a trade-in.
We've pretty much made a dumb financial decision, but then it's our money.
It's also our money when our Manatee County commissioners are making financial decisions for us. We voted for them to represent us and, hopefully, not make the same kind of mistakes we make at the car lot. We have three new commissioners in James Satcher, Kevin Van Ostenbridge and George Kruse who pledged fiscal responsibility when they ran. Hopefully, they remember that pledge when it comes to making sure the county has adequate animal shelters.
The last time I broached this particular topic, I received a string of notes saying I was a dog hater. For goodness sakes, no. I love Fido, and Lassie, and Prince. But I also don't like to see my money wasted because commissioners want to buy a new car just because they are tired of the old one.
In this case, the new car is a $6 to $10 million animal shelter in East County. The used car is the county's Palmetto shelter, which has fallen into disrepair.
Before you begin firing off more pet hater notes, let me make this clear. If Manatee County shows the need for a new animal shelter, I will be aboard the bus. I will hold one end when they cut the ribbon. I will pump my fist and yell "Woof, woof!"
First, though, please make sure we aren't able to have adequate facilities by renovating the Palmetto facility and getting the donated Bishop Animal Shelter online. Sure, that will mean we won't be able to drive off the lot with a shiny, new car right away. It is going to take a bit of time. That's OK.
In a story in the Sept. 30 East County Observer (Page 3), Commissioner Carol Whitmore said the county will close the Palmetto facility, and then, perhaps, donate it to a bird rescue or wildlife rescue for $1.
It's obvious Whitmore has a great heart when it comes to helping animals. I just wish she could temper her passion for a bit while the Bishop Animal Shelter comes online (expected in another three or four months) and county staff members study whether a suggested $1 million renovation of the Palmetto facility is realistic and whether such a renovation would bring that shelter up-to-date, and make it shiny and new. If those things happen, taxpayers would save $5 million or more if a new shelter is not needed. If it doesn't work, it's time to break ground in East County.
But note, as Whitmore did, that the county just spent $400,000 a year ago on repairs to the Palmetto facility. If we basically give the property away because it is banged up, we lose that $400,000 and the value of the land.
As far as the argument that the Palmetto property isn't fit for a dog shelter, even after a $1 million renovation, then why would it be suitable for a wildlife rescue? Should we treat dogs and cats better than parrots or deer, or pelicans, or bobcats, or coyotes?
Perhaps the county needs to open more shelters dedicated to animals other than dogs and cats. We could pass another 1 mill tax, and open a reptile rescue.
Or here is an idea. Perhaps we could allow our citizens to take care of our wildlife and pets through nonprofits, allowing our government to focus its attention on other areas.
That way, we can make our own decisions about when to junk our used car, and how much we want to spend on a new one.