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Placer County supervisors grant temporary rent reprieve to Auburn’s Cat House

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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A cat rescue group came away with a partial victory Tuesday in an attempt to stay rent-free at a Placer County-owned building in North Auburn. Supervisors voted to allow the Friends of Placer County Animal Shelters organization to remain at its home in a building at the Placer County Government Center, forgive three months of unpaid rent, and let the group stay all of 2010 at no charge. But Supervisor Kirk Uhler said that the one-year rent reprieve was meant only to allow the non-profit to establish fund-raising mechanisms that would allow it to continue to occupy the D Avenue cat adoption center. Rosemary Frieborn, the Friends group president and founder, described the decision as a partial victory. The group, which has dubbed the D Avenue facility The Cat House, had asked for a five-year, no-cost lease and return of rent paid over the past three years to the county under a previous lease. Facility Services Director Jim Durfee’s department had recommended denial of the Friends request. The alternative suggested by staff would have been a year-to-year lease starting at a discounted rental rate. Durfee said that if the county agreed to free rent, other non-profits now paying to occupy buildings at the former DeWitt Center would ask for equal treatment. The county currently takes in $124,000 in rent from 13 non-profits. “I would expect those folks knocking on my door asking for similar deals,” Durfee said. Four non-profits – Auburn Area Toys for Tots, Motherlode Special Olympics, Sierra Economic Development District and Volunteers of the Multipurpose Senior center – pay no rent. Others pay anywhere from $1 a year (Peace for Families) to $61,000 (Sierra Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence) annually. About 20 Cat-House supporters were in the audience, some wearing paper cat’s head cutouts. Several speakers stepped up to oppose rental charges on the World War II-era building. Uhler and Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery went back and forth on a solution that Montgomery described as “splitting the baby,” in reference to the Bible story of Solomon solving a dispute between two woman over a child. “We have the ability as a board of making decisions on a case-by-case basis,” Montgomery said. After the year is up, the Friends group – which had warned it would have to close its rescue site because of lack of funding – faces a new lease of $8,000 a year.