A unified regional animal control system won important, though qualified, support on Monday from city leaders.
The Spokane City Council voted 6-1 to endorse Mayor Mary Verner’s stance on a proposed nine-year county property tax that would pay for a new animal shelter for the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service.
Verner has told county commissioners that she will back the tax if the county agrees to let Spokane join the system for the same amount the city is paying its nonprofit provider, SpokAnimal C.A.R.E., this year (about $561,000) plus an amount to account for inflation. The county would keep the city’s dog and cat license revenue.
“This way, we have control over our own destiny, at least for nine years,” said Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin.
The Spokane County Commission already placed the tax, which is expected to cost the owner of a $100,000 property about $4 to $6 a year, on the November ballot.
How to provide animal control services has long been a predicament at City Hall, especially in the past decade after SpokAnimal officials notified the city that they no longer wanted to be in the role of dogcatcher. In response, the City Council voted in 2008 to join SCRAPS. But that deal fell apart the next year after city voters rejected a public safety tax that included money to expand a SCRAPS shelter on Flora Road.
In the years since, city and county officials decided to pursue construction of a new animal control building rather than expand the SCRAPS facility, because it lacks sewer service, has poor access as a result of a rail line that crosses Flora and isn’t centrally located.
Under the deal, the city would sell the county land and a building left over from a Havana Street bridge construction project over rail tracks near Broadway. The city could keep the proceeds, though the land and building were federally funded, as long as the money goes to arterial street projects.
City administrators estimated the fair market price at about $2 million. The county would remodel the building into a shelter and continue to manage SCRAPS.
Councilman Bob Apple cast the lone vote against Verner’s proposal. He said SpokAnimal is willing to continue to be the city’s provider, and new taxes aren’t needed to keep the organization.
But others said the regional deal is an opportunity to keep rates steady and create a unified system that would be less confusing to the public. Spokane’s Internal Auditor Rick Romero noted that SpokAnimal’s rate has increased to $561,000 this year from $206,000 in 2005.