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Council assessing options at SCRAPS, SpokAnimal

Thu., March 22, 2012

Regional animal control once again was a topic of discussion at Tuesday’s Spokane Valley City Council meeting – two council members advocated asking SpokAnimal if it was willing to take over the city’s animal control contract, but not all the council members agreed.

“I can’t image they can take the 15,000 animals SCRAPS handles,” said Councilman Arne Woodard. SpokAnimal’s facility is located on a small site and Spokane Valley’s population is growing. SpokAnimal is not a viable long-term solution for the city, Woodard said.

Senior administrative analyst Morgan Koudelka said the number of animals handled by SCRAPS for the city is much less than 15,000 and that SpokAnimal has indicated it thinks it can handle Spokane Valley. He asked if city staff should explore other options, including starting its own animal control service. “We have been very happy with the service we’ve been receiving from the county,” Koudelka said.

Councilwoman Brenda Grassel said she was interested in hearing from SpokAnimal because she feared the city’s costs would go up if Spokane County goes ahead with its plan to purchase and renovate a new building for SCRAPS. “I don’t see how in the world our costs would ever go down,” she said. “We’ve got higher priorities. We have to look at all the options.”

County commissioners have said the current Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service location at the edge of the Spokane Valley Industrial Park is no longer viable. A ballot measure to spend $15 million on a new regional animal shelter failed at the polls in November. The county’s new plan is to buy and renovate a building for about $4.5 million with the project financed by Spokane, Spokane County and Spokane Valley. The city’s share would be nearly $1 million.

Councilman Dean Grafos said the city should just let the county do what it wants and then pay a building-use fee or rent every year instead of paying $1 million up front. That way the county will have all the liability and maintenance costs. “The building should be their responsibility, not our city’s,” he said.

Spokane has yet to say if it will join the plan but has indicated it favors a fixed-cost contract rather than a contract for actual usage costs, Koudelka said. “A fixed-cost contract is much different than what we have now,” he said.

Several council members panned the idea of the city setting up its own shelter.

“I don’t think I’m interested at all in owning a dog shelter, an animal shelter,” Woodard said. “We’re a contract city.”

“I’m for a contract, if we can work with the county,” said Councilman Chuck Hafner, who also asked how long the council has to make a decision. “We always seem to be put in the position of having to make a quick decision. I don’t like that.”

“We should work with the county to begin with,” said Mayor Tom Towey. “If we look at other options then we spend our resources, time and money.”

The council agreed to have the county answer several questions before deciding whether to explore other options in addition to its current contract with SCRAPS.

In other business, the council discussed a proposed agreement with the Union Pacific Railroad for improvements to the railroad crossing at Pines Road near Mansfield Avenue. The city recently widened Pines in that area and now a signaling arm on the west side of the street must be moved so a sidewalk can be extended. A new signaling arm must also be added in the median, said senior capital projects engineer Steve Worley. “The road is too wide now for a single gate,” he said.

An agreement dating back to 1977 stipulates that the city must pay for any changes to the existing warning devices that Union Pacific operates and maintains.

“Money is in the budget to pay for it,” Worley said. “We just have to have this agreement.”

The estimated cost of the work, which will be completed by Union Pacific, is $236,000, Worley said. The railroad may choose to do additional upgrades at the same time, but the city won’t be billed for that work. “They won’t be able to bill us for anything not in the estimate,” he said.

The agreement is expected to be finalized soon and the council will need to approve the final version.

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