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County answers animal shelter questions

Regional facility depends on Spokane, Spokane Valley participation

The Spokane Valley City Council spent the bulk of its time Tuesday going over responses from Spokane County to questions the city asked about a proposed regional animal shelter.

The county is considering buying a vacant building and converting it to a regional animal shelter for $4.5 million and wants Spokane and Spokane Valley to contribute to the purchase and remodeling cost.

The county prepared several funding options based on whether Spokane Valley wants an ownership stake in the building or prefers to pay an annual facilities fee, said senior analyst Morgan Koudelka. The annual fee would range from $45,000 to $66,000 depending on the option selected in addition to annual operating costs of about $242,000.

The city has budgeted $315,000 for animal control provided by the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service in 2012, he said. “All these options come in under what we budgeted this year,” he said. If the city pays $1 million up front for partial ownership, a yearly facility fee will not be charged, Koudelka said.

Much of the discussion has focused on Spokane’s potential participation in the regional effort. Spokane renewed a two-year contract with SpokAnimal last year.

“Spokane has indicated they are in on the regional model,” Koudelka said.

There was some previous discussion about whether Spokane Valley should investigate contracting with SpokAnimal. Councilman Arne Woodard, who previously expressed support for the idea, said he has changed his mind after speaking to several local veterinarians. The amount of care vets are authorized to give to injured animals handled by SpokAnimal is much less than what SCRAPS allows, Woodard said. “I’ll vote against SpokAnimal Care and I was one that wanted to look at them,” Woodard said. “I’m not interested in even pursuing it based on the research I’ve done.”

Mayor Tom Towey said he has visited both SCRAPS and SpokAnimal and believes SpokAnimal will need a new, larger facility in a few years just as SCRAPS does now. “Personally, I don’t think it’s going to save us that much money in the short run and certainly not in the long run,” he said.

Councilwoman Brenda Grassel advocated for researching what SpokAnimal would offer. “I do feel it’s prudent to have all the information before we make a decision,” she said.

Koudelka said that in previous years both Spokane and Spokane County have been unable to get adequate data from SpokAnimal when they have requested it and it may be difficult to get the needed information in a short amount of time. “It wasn’t that long ago that they said they were getting out of the business and then changed their minds,” he said.

The council agreed to wait until after a joint meeting with the Spokane City Council scheduled for today before deciding whether to pursue the SpokAnimal suggestion further.

In other business, the council made two unanimous votes to move forward with the proposed purchase of property at Sprague Avenue and Herald Road owned by the Pring Corporation. The purchase was proposed by the Spokane County Library District, which would like to put a library on part of the property but can’t afford to buy the entire eight acres. The city would expand the adjacent Balfour Park with its portion.

The council approved spending $8,000 to pay for half of a traffic study which has already been approved by the Library District. “We’ll have a better understanding after this of what the development costs would be,” said City Attorney Cary Driskell.

The second vote approved drafting a letter of intent to purchase the property so negotiations can begin. City Manager Mike Jackson said the city would pay up to $30,000 for an appraisal, title work, survey, environmental assessment and other work.

As it stands now the city would buy the land and then the district would purchase what it needs from the city. If the district fails to pass a bond to pay for the construction of a new library within five years the city would buy back the land for the same price, said Jackson. “The one unknown in this whole partnership is whether or not the bond measure passes,” he said.

Woodard thanked the city staff for their work on the proposal. “I think this is one of the good things we’re going to do for the city,” he said.