CONWAY, Ark. (KTHV) - Faulkner County is a small step closer to having an animal shelter and animal control throughout the county.

The county quorum court voted Tuesday night to return money meant for a shelter that was used to find space for the Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office.

A large group of animal rescue volunteers attended the meeting, as they have many prior, and modestly celebrated the outcome.

Members of that group had been concerned about the fact that the sheriff’s office had used been given the building on German Lane adjacent to the Justice Center. While they understood the need for space for deputies, the building was purchased with nearly half a million dollars collected over more than a decade via a voluntary tax toward an animal shelter.

“We need the money that was, that purchased this building over here, the $499,000,” Donna Clawson, president of Friends of the Faulkner County Animal Shelter and a primary fundraiser for the project, said earlier Tuesday evening. “We’d like that returned to the Faulkner County animal fund. And with that money, we would like them to give us permission to start building the shelter.”

Not long after the building was purchased, FCSO leased it from the county for a rate that Clawson said was well-below market value.

But it kept a large banner above the door that read, “future home of Faulkner County Animal Shelter, supported by your voluntary taxes.”

Clawson said the building was not optimal for a shelter because it lacked green space, but renovations could happen. Instead, they prefer to build a facility to meet the needs of the county’s animals.

“The revenue stream is what is holding us back right now,” Clawson said. “The quorum court has to decide where they’re going to get the money for a revenue stream to support the shelter.”

The justices of the peace did not specify when the money will be returned to the fund. Susan Shaddox, another volunteer supporter of the animal shelter campaign, estimated that it would not likely be before November when the county receives its next share of the year’s sales tax receipts.

Many of the shelter’s supporters run or participate in local rescue groups, some housing dozens of foster animals at a time.

“The rescue groups have done such a good job,” Clawson said, “that some — perhaps, even some on the quorum court — don’t see the need for the shelter. However, the rescue groups are tired, most of them are broke, and they need some help.”

County Judge Jim Baker told the crowd at the end of Tuesday night’s meeting that he wants to see a shelter built, and has talked with the City of Conway about joining forces on a combined shelter. Baker said they have gone so far as to hire an architect to create a blueprint, though no official partnership has been signed.

Clawson believes a singular, county-wide shelter might be the best solution for both the city and the county.

“You know, they can’t grow, and they need to grow,” she said, explaining that Conway’s shelter is limited by its location. “We have $1.4 million that we could build a gorgeous shelter. They have a revenue stream that’s already in place, and they also have the staff that’s already in place. It would be a great marriage, and it would be financially responsible for both the City of Conway and Faulkner County.”