|1/23/2013 1:38:00 PM|
Council at odds over animal control contract, again
|Photo by Ian Dunn|
Leavenworth city officials are still debating a contract for animal control this year. Some city officials favor dropping the contract with Animal Control, thus relying upon the Sheriff’s Department to perform the necessary services.
The contract for animal control in the city of Leavenworth is exactly the same amount as last year, $14,627, which is about as bare bones as you can get for the service. The contract came up for consideration at the Jan. 8 Leavenworth City Council meeting.
Now, council members are debating whether the city needs the service at all. The contract provides for call out animal control service in city of Leavenworth. Animal Control no longer patrols in the city. Animal Control Executive Director Dawn Davies made a presentation to the council.
"Last year, we hit a record high. The Humane Society had a record 2,108 adoptions last year, which is up from 1,889. We never hit the 2,000 mark before," Davies said. "We had a 31 percent reduction in euthanasia. Very good statistics. Really happy about that. Also, an 11 percent increase in return to owners of animals that were lost or stray."
She said Leavenworth accounts for just under 3 percent of the animals that come through the shelter. An issue from last year was calls to Rivercom for animal control problems. These Rivercom calls cost the city $41 each time. An agreement was reached last year that Animal Control would pick up the tab for any Rivercom calls over 28, totaling not more than $600.
Davies said there were 76 incidents reported by Rivercom. Of those, 36 were not within Leavenworth. She said the Rivercom reports just say, animal problem. From that, they don't know if it was a wild or domestic animal or a "cat at large" which is not a violation in the city of Leavenworth.
When the city does get calls for animal control issues, callers are directed to Animal Control not Rivercom.
"On our city directory, we do list Animal Control's direct number," said Joel Walinski, Leavenworth city administrator. "There is more that we can do, especially in spring of the year, not to call 911, but to call Animal Control directly."
Currently, the city of Leavenworth collects around $1,000 from dog license fees. The cost is $10 for spayed or neutered and $20 if they are not. Davies said across their jurisdictions the cost is $20 for spayed or neutered and $40 if they are not.
Councilman Elmer Larsen said the city should look at stepping up the licensing fees in order to recoup some of the cost of Animal Control. Councilman Peter DeVries said he would like to see a detailed budget that shows how the $14,627 is being spent before he could approve the contract.
"How much of it is going to pay for your new building? How much is going to pay for new equipment, such as a new vehicle. How much is going to be paid for an animal control officer?," DeVries said. "I think the contract is fine. The bottom line figure is great, but I see no way how that is put together."
Davies apologized for not bringing a detailed budget. She said most the cost is for the officers. DeVries said he has used the service and was very pleased.
In 2008, the city paid substantially more money for the service, because there was in town driving and patrolling, Walinski said. Because there was an issue with the dollar amount, other options were considered to reduce costs.
"We didn't have any way of knowing that we actually got the service hours that we were charged," said Councilman Bob Francis, also a Chelan County Sheriff Deputy. "Working the city all the time, like I was back then, I never saw Animal Control. The same issue last summer. I worked Leavenworth for a week the first month of August. Twice that week, I was called about an animal in a vehicle."
Francis said it took a long time for Animal Control to respond. By the time they did respond, he had already handled the situation.
"That is not the way it should be. It is their job, not the sheriff's deputies," he said. "As a council member, I am willing to go a year and see. Because you look in the county, and they don't have a contract. I see what happens. As a sheriff's deputy, I want the contract because I don't want to deal with these petty little things. But when you see the response times, you wonder how do we make it work?"
Going without Animal Control for a year was a viable option for Francis. Larsen asked what happens when a mean dog is running around? Francis said you would call the Sheriff, like people in the county do.
Councilman Michael Molohon lamented the council seems to have this same discussion every year.
"You have to have the service. I don't understand why we go through and nitpick it every year," Molohon said. "It's like insurance. You pay for insurance and you get nothing, even when you have a loss."
Davies pointed out, when the contract is in place, city residents that have a lot or stray animal or they want to surrender an animal to the shelter, pay no fee. If there were no contract, city resident would be forced to pay a drop off fee.
"What I can say, the call up service is a very low service level. There's probably not a lot of calls for that," Walinski said. "The big key for this is the ability for our residents to pick up a stray and get rid of it. That is the biggest piece for our residents to use. I'm not sure what's going to happen if you say, let's go without."
The issue was continued to the Jan. 22 council meeting.
Ian Dunn can be reached at 548-5286 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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