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Humane Society Loses Animal-Control Contract City Bites Back After Organization Demands Truck Along With Fee Hikes

Wed., Sept. 3, 1997

Faced with an ultimatum to pay more or get lost, the Coeur d’Alene City Council bid goodbye to Kootenai Humane Society’s animal-control services Tuesday night.

“If you are going to stay at the old contract … we will have to terminate services at the end of the month,” said Rick Lopes, Humane Society president.

The contract, Lopes said, doesn’t cover the full cost of dealing with the city’s animal problems.

The Humane Society has been paid about $46,000 a year since 1993 to pick up and house strays in Coeur d’Alene. Before then, city police dealt with animal complaints.

Lopes wanted an additional $13,000 to cover daily operations, and between $8,000 and $12,000 for a new pickup.

The council wanted to increase fees for dog licenses and impounding and boarding. City officials also questioned why the Humane Society wasn’t setting aside money to replace the truck the city gave it in 1993.

Lopes refused to accept the fee hikes alone, returning to the podium more than once Tuesday to make it clear the city’s offer was untenable if there wasn’t a guarantee of a new pickup and more money.

So the council voted to either negotiate with another private contractor to pick up strays in the city or leave the task to the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department.

“Back me into a corner, and I guess I’ll bite,” Councilwoman Dixie Reid told Lopes.

“I agree,” added Councilwoman Susan Servick, “especially when we are in a position of all or nothing.”

If a city doesn’t have animal-control services, the sheriff must take care of the task according to state law, said Capt. Carl Bergh of the Coeur d’Alene Police Department.

That may mean animal complaints aren’t dealt with as rapidly, Bergh said. The county also wouldn’t enforce dog license laws and related city animal-control ordinances, including a new one that says people who don’t clean up when their dogs defecate in public can be fined up to $300 and jailed for six months.

The city has never had an accurate record of the Humane Society’s expenses, Bergh said.

“If there are other areas where the Kootenai Humane Society’s losing money, we shouldn’t have to pay for them,” he said.

The Humane Society flap was the most notable disagreement in an otherwise smooth, almost jovial public hearing over the 1997-98 budget.

The council approved the $32.1 million spending plan, a $90,000 increase over this year, after hearing comments from Concerned Businesses of North Idaho.

Executive Director Steve Judy urged the council to review his organization’s earlier suggestions for holding down costs. He praised the council, especially its recent decision to spend $45,000 for a consultant to help revitalize downtown.

The council also voted to spend $44,000 in money saved on a street project on a variety of programs. Some of the money was earmarked for extended library hours and books, computers and police department equipment.

Two budget requests were defeated after tie-breaking votes by Mayor Al Hassell. One request would have given $5,000 to the Lake City Jaycees for the Fourth of July fireworks display. The other would have given the City Arts Commission an additional $2,500.

Hassell said the programs are worthwhile but ought to be funded by private donations.

The new budget means no city property tax increase for the eighth straight year for the owner of a typical home.

The council instead relied on impact fees and additional property tax revenue from new construction to cover the small increase in overall spending.

, DataTimes

Tags: government

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