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Austin organization commits to matching funds raised by the nonprofit group in Newberg

After several behind closed door conversations with city officials involving concerns that the town might lose its animal shelter, Newberg Animal Shelter Friends (NASF) made a sudden announcement last week that its wants to purchase the animal shelter building on Sandoz Road.

"We're very happy to announce that Ken Austin, our local businessman and A-dec founder, has agreed to help us fundraise and he's agreed to match dollar for dollar as we go through this process. We are very thankful and grateful for that support," Crista Eberle, Newberg Animal Shelter Friends board chairwoman, said at the March 5 Newberg City Council meeting.GRAPHIC FILE PHOTO - The Newberg Animal Shelter was constructed with funds gathered from a nonprofit group as well as the city.

The shelter has a long history of uncertainty, but the potential death blow came in January when the city announced it was considering selling the building to help raise funds for a new emergency communications systems.

NASF officials met with the Austin organization to discuss the situation and how to protect the shelter from possible closure.

"We've been in discussion with the board of directors of the animal shelter, we visited with them on their plans and got comfortable with what they are doing and their capacity to raise the money," said Austin Industries President Brett Baker. "Ken and the family are going to do a match to support them to buy the building up to, at this point, $150,000. This is led by Ken. Joan Austin was planning on having an animal shelter when she was a young woman before she met Ken. The family is very passionate about animals and they think that it is a wonderful story that a group of citizens got together about 15 years ago to raise this money to build this building,"

The NASF doesn't currently know exactly how much to raise in order to purchase the building.

"We don't have an appraisal amount from the city so we can't set a target without that," Eberle said. "As far as I know we will talk about it at the council meeting in a few weeks. We wanted to get started on the fundraising because it will take a significant effort."

The appraisal is the starting point for the negotiations that will need to take place before the group can purchase the building.

"In the end, we will take all those numbers and the appraisal will come in and we'll compare this is how much money has been spent by all parties and identify who … and then we will bring that back to council," city manager Joe Hannan said at the Feb. 5 city council meeting.

"We (NASF)) spent $636,000 from fundraising for construction of the shelter," Eberle said. "The city estimates that they kicked in around $200,000 toward the building that was completed in April 2013."

At the Feb. 5 council meeting concerns arose whether the money from the donations and fundraising would be recognized.

"We want to recognize that some of the money was donated to the city with the … intent that the money went to the shelter …," councilor Denise Bacon said.

"When the appraisal amount is made public then the difference between that figure and donations will determine how much NASF will need to raise in order to purchase the building.

"This is a city facility and like anything you are the ultimate stewards of that and you will make that tough decision … of the distribution of that money, if there is some," Hannon said. "So we don't have to guess, let's get the appraisal first … then we will see if there is money."

"I think at the end of the day what I am most interested in is that the people's pets are taken care of in the community and to make sure that taxpayers are protected and the nonprofit and the city has a good relationship," councilor Patrick Johnson said.

The news of the Austin's largess came as a huge relief for the NASF and for the community who donated their time and resources to help keep the shelter going.

"I think that we have a strong sense of purpose and have closure on this and can move forward so we can focus on the work at hand," Eberle said. "We have a lot of people volunteering a lot of their time helping the animals at the shelter. We would like to work with the city to get closure and transfer the ownership of the building, relieve the burden from the city and move forward."

"We have donors that have stepped up to stand with us and have real confidence in the future of the shelter. We've had new monthly donors come into play and new large donors coming into play with very strong commitments."

The NASF has begun preparing formal fundraising strategies and events. One such event is the "Wine and Whiskers" annual fundraiser, set for April 28 at the Chehalem Cultural Center ballroom. In May, the organization will hold an annual painting event at Social Goods. The shelter is also accepting donations on their website at https://newberganimals.com/ and through their Facebook page.

"I think that our goal has been to serve the community and that is what created the nonprofit to begin with and that has always been our mission and our goal," Eberle said. "We just want to look at this an opportunity to help our community grow and help with our services."

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