January 15, 2013 in City

Spokane opts for SCRAPS contract

Council votes for new animal control agency
By The Spokesman-Review
 
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After 30 years, SpokAnimal will no longer serve as the city of Spokane’s animal control agency.

The Spokane City Council voted unanimously Monday to approve a 20-year contract to join the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service beginning in 2014.

Officials expressed relief that they finally have a regional animal control plan agreeable to the three largest local governments in Spokane County that doesn’t require a new tax.

“I can’t tell you how happy I am tonight to be able to feel like this is a good deal,” Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin said.

Earlier this month, the Spokane Valley City Council finalized a contract to remain with SCRAPS.

The city of Spokane will pay the county $561,000 per year and SCRAPS will keep the money from city pet licenses. The cost may increase with inflation.

The county dropped a one-time startup fee of $350,000 that it proposed in its original offer.

SpokAnimal had submitted a similar offer, but city officials said the deal with the county provides a new shelter and regional cooperation.

The Spokane Humane Society has urged officials for years to create one regional animal control agency to simplify the process of finding lost pets.

Monday’s vote was the final step the county needed to buy the former Harley-Davidson dealership at 6815 E. Trent Ave. and retrofit it into the new regional shelter. Officials hope to have it ready by Jan. 1, when the city joins SCRAPS.

It’s the second time the council has agreed to contract with SCRAPS. The first vote, in 2008, was derailed when city voters opposed a public safety tax that included money to expand SCRAPS’ shelter. In 2011 county voters rejected a tax to build a new regional shelter.

Spokane officials have declined to participate on a new animal control board that was formed in negotiations over a regional system. The board, which will recommend animal control policies to the Spokane County Commission, will have representatives from the county and Spokane Valley.

Spokane City Councilman Steve Salvatori, who along with Councilman Mike Allen led the council’s negotiations on the deal, said the city doesn’t need to bother with another bureaucratic institution because the contract provides the city enough protection for price and service.

The city began to pursue an animal control partnership with the county after SpokAnimal suggested it wanted out of the animal control business. But the agency soon changed directions and has worked to keep the contract.

Gail Mackie, executive director of SpokAnimal, promised to work for a smooth transition, but told the council: “To say that I’m disappointed is a great understatement.”

She said SpokAnimal will continue to work for animal welfare and will operate its shelter and spay and neuter clinic. But 22 of the organization’s 42 employees will lose their jobs, she said.

Former Spokane City Councilman Bob Apple, who opposed animal control regionalization when he served on the council, predicted that SCRAPS will quickly increase pet license fees.

County Commissioner Todd Mielke, however, said the $25 dog and $15 cat license fees can’t be raised unless all the partner local governments agree. He said SCRAPS will work to persuade more people to license their pets, but is unlikely to request a base rate increase, at least in the first couple of years of the contract.


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