The Spokane Valley City Council decided Tuesday to begin contract negotiations with the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service despite a curve ball thrown by Spokane city Councilman Steve Salvatori, who requested the council delay its decision for a month. The council has been debating for months whether to continue contracting with SCRAPS or to accept a proposal from SpokAnimal to provide animal control services.
On Tuesday, Salvatori sent a letter to Spokane Valley council members and Spokane County commissioners advocating that Spokane and Spokane Valley use their combined power to get a contract more to their liking. In the letter he suggested using SCRAPS for enforcement and licensing and SpokAnimal for shelter services. “Costs would be lower if SCRAPS bought trucks from SpokAnimal instead of buying new ones,” he wrote.
“Our two cities have hardly spoken to each other,” Salvatori said Tuesday during a public hearing on animal control services. “It’s possible we could get the best of both (organizations).”
Residents and representatives from local animal rescue groups all testified in favor of SCRAPS, sometimes emphatically so. They all said SCRAPS had excellent customer service, while dealings with SpokAnimal resulted in unreturned messages and refusals to respond.
“I have repeatedly called SpokAnimal after hours,” said Spokane animal law attorney Cheryl Mitchell. “They won’t come.”
SpokAnimal doesn’t provide benefits for employees and doesn’t have space for exotic pets, she said. “I have four file boxes full of complaints,” she said.
Kerry Masters, vice president of Animals Advocates of the Inland Northwest said animal control was a “nightmare” in Liberty Lake when the town contracted with SpokAnimal. “Don’t leave SCRAPS,” she said. “Please, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”
“If something happens to me and my dogs had to go to a shelter, I’d want them to go to SCRAPS,” said Lona Holm of Inland Small Dog Rescue.
Senior administrative analyst Morgan Koudelka said staff recommended staying with SCRAPS even though the price quoted by SpokAnimal was lower. SCRAPS provides a better level of service and its employees have a reputation for professionalism, he said. SCRAPS also plans to locate its new shelter in Spokane Valley.
“That is a huge benefit to our citizens,” he said. In recent years SpokAnimal has been raising its rates while the rate charged by SCRAPS has dropped 28 percent since the city incorporated, Koudelka said.
The service provided by SCRAPS has gotten good reviews, he said. “Our citizens have an aversion to change when a service provider is providing a high level of service,” he said.
Koudelka recommended adding conditions to a contract with SCRAPS: that the shelter is a regional one involve involving Spokane and that the county find an alternative to its proposed annual cost increases based on the consumer price index.
Councilwoman Brenda Grassel asked if the city could wait a month as Salvatori suggested. Koudelka said there have been joint council meetings and numerous discussions on the subject. “We have been working with Spokane and Spokane County on a regional model for four years,” he said. The two organizations have said previously they’re not interested in working jointly on a contract, he said.
Mayor Tom Towey said the council wasn’t making a final decision, just deciding who to begin negotiations with.
“This is not a formal decision,” Koudelka said. “Nothing is final until a contract is voted on by the council. We don’t want to continue the waiting game without any progress.”
Several council members said they liked Koudelka’s suggested conditions. “I say let’s move forward,” said Councilman Chuck Hafner.
“I believe the county will rise to the occasion as they often do,” said Councilman Arne Woodard.