The Lincoln County Board voted Tuesday night to sell a corner of the fairgrounds in Merrill to the Lincoln County Humane Society. Introduced by Supervisor Jim Alber, the resolution passed on a 14-8 vote.

The animal shelter has been located on the fairgrounds block since 1978, when a lease agreement originated between the county and the Humane Society. There are currently 14 years remaining on that 50-year lease. The way the lease is written, both parties would have to agree to end it.

The county is obligated to provide animal control services and does so through a contact with the Humane Society.

LCHS is in the midst of a capital campaign to construct a new shelter. They have raised $492,000 toward their $700,000 goal. The Humane Society will break ground on the new facility once they reach the $700,000 mark, said LCHS Board President Pat Hoerstman.

When the property transfer is complete, LCHS will own a 200x500-foot lot in the northeast corner of the fairgrounds. The lot will have 500 feet of frontage on Memorial Drive and 200 feet of frontage on Sixth Street. By the resolution, the County Board agreed to sell the property to LCHS for $1.
The new LCHS property is directly north of the 200x300-foot lot they have leased from the county since 1978. When the new building is completed, the current shelter will be demolished and that lot will revert back to county ownership.

The issue of the Humane Society’s lease or purchase of the property has been ongoing for a couple of years. There had been suggestions from County Board supervisors to move the shelter to a different location, but the Humane Society has been adamant about staying where it is.
“It’s the best spot to provide our service,” Hoerstman said. “We’ve been here almost 40 years.”

With the property purchase agreement, LCHS will be increasing fund raising efforts.
“We’re getting requests out to quite a few people,” Hoerstman said. “I think people may have been hesitant because of the property issues, but there may be more confidence now that we have a definite site.”

The current shelter building has issues with ventilation, which causes illness to spread quickly among the animals. The new building will also offer easier access for dogs to get outdoors, increasing safety for staff.

The kennels and cages will be larger, but the capacity of the shelter won’t increase dramatically, said shelter manager Liz Friedenfels. The additional space in the building will provide a quarantine area and a room for people to spend some private time with their prospective new pet.