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Cities, county will examine SCRAPS facility needs

Spokane County Commissioner Todd Mielke pauses at the end of a tour of the Spokane County Regional Animal Protective Services building on June 11, 2010 in Spokane Valley. Regional officials gathered at the shelter to assess the need for a new facility.   (Dan Pelle)
Spokane County Commissioner Todd Mielke pauses at the end of a tour of the Spokane County Regional Animal Protective Services building on June 11, 2010 in Spokane Valley. Regional officials gathered at the shelter to assess the need for a new facility. (Dan Pelle)

A proposed new regional animal-control shelter got a scratch behind the ears and a pat on the shoulders Friday.

Elected officials from Spokane, Spokane Valley, Liberty Lake and Spokane County toured the maxed-out county shelter and agreed a new one is needed.

They gave themselves two months to gather information that could lead to a bond measure in the November 2011 general election.

All three county commissioners, three mayors and four city council members liked the idea of sharing a cost tentatively estimated at $15 million.

“The regional approach is the best solution to the problem,” Spokane Valley Mayor Tom Towey said. “There’s no two ways about it.”

At the suggestion of Spokane Mayor Mary Verner, all the participating elected officials agreed to have their staffs work together on a more detailed cost analysis. The elected leaders agreed to reconvene in 60 days to see whether they can go forward as a coalition that includes Spokane.

The city currently gets animal-control service from the nonprofit SpokAnimal organization, which wants to sever the relationship.

Verner called Friday’s tour “a real eye opener.”

The Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service shelter put its best paw forward like a stray dog trying out for adoption. It was clean, orderly and packed.

“This is that crucial time frame because this facility is inadequate,” Verner said.

If local governments don’t agree quickly to work together, “we’re going to go our separate ways again and wonder 50 years from now why we didn’t take advantage of this opportunity,” she said.

Spokane City Councilman Steve Corker agreed “it’s almost fish-or-cut-bait time” for city officials, who are trying to decide whether to contract with SCRAPS.

Spokane Valley, Liberty Lake, Cheney, Millwood and Fairchild Air Force Base already contract with the SCRAPS for animal-control services – and the facility isn’t adequate for their needs, Director Nancy Hill said.

She said Spokane Valley accounts for about half of the shelter’s work now, and the city of Spokane would account for about half if it joined the group.

Spokane City Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin thought voters wouldn’t pass a bond measure for anything “too fancy.” Corker doubted they would pass a bond measure at all, and thought elected officials may have to work with available revenue.

Liberty Lake Mayor Wendy Van Orden suggested buying and renovating an existing building.

Hill said the shelter at 2521 N. Flora Road in Spokane Valley can’t easily be expanded at its current site, on the edge of a county gravel pit.

Besides, it is isolated and on the wrong side of the Union Pacific tracks, near the tail of a dead-end road. Slow-moving and parked trains frequently block access to the shelter, Hill said.

She wants a more easily accessible and visible location.

“Being in a visible location is going to bring in donor money that we’re never going to get here,” Hill said.

Being on a bus route also would bring in more volunteers, Hill said.

She credited some 50 active volunteers with a high adoption rate for dogs.

“It’s rare that we have to euthanize an adoptable dog,” Hill said.

“I think you’ve done an incredible job,” Van Orden said. “Otherwise, we wouldn’t be coming back to you for service.

Verner said afterward that she was “very encouraged” by the gathering.

“It’s the most progress we have made in the various discussions we have had,” she said.



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