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County official: Joint kennel facility about volume, cost
As a large contingent of Humane Society of Yuma supporters listened intently, the Yuma City Council Tuesday night during a special work session was briefed on the possible construction of a city-county joint animal control transition holding facility.
In his presentation, Yuma County Administrator Robert Pickels stressed that the issue is not with the kenneling service now being provided by HSOY, but rather the escalating cost as both the county and city have experienced significantly more calls than they anticipated when they took on animal control services in-house in 2012 for their respective jurisdictions.
Pickels said the county negotiated a “very fair” agreement with HSOY to kennel animals picked up by county animal control officers for $32 a day. But the unexpectedly high volume of calls has driven up the cost.
“This is taxpayer dollars we're talking about. As an administrator, when I see escalating costs, I look for alternatives.”
And the possibility of the county going in with the municipalities of Yuma, Somerton, San Luis and Wellton to build and operate a holding facility is one alternative being considered.
“It's still a conceptual discussion,” Pickels emphasized. “It's not a proposal.”
However, he estimated that such a facility would reduce the kenneling cost to $15 per day per animal once the debt service is paid off.
If pursued, Pickels said, the likely location would be on one acre owned by the city on 36th Street east of Avenue 4E, for which the city would be paid fair market value. The county would finance and own the facility, with each entity responsible for its proportional percentage of debt service and operating costs.
In some very preliminary numbers, the facility could cost about $1.5 million to build and approximately $224,000 to operate and maintain, he said. Staffing would include two kennel technicians, prison labor and a veterinarian under contract.
The city of Yuma's current activity is a little more than 56 percent of the total, so its share of debt service and operating costs for the first year would be $253,080. That would go down as the debt service is paid off.
Councilman Jerry Stuart remarked that he's heard concerns that a new facility would cost taxpayers. “They don't realize they're paying now.”
Pickels responded that the facility ultimately would result in significant savings for taxpayers by as much as 50 percent for kenneling costs. “It would be an investment in future savings.”
While work sessions typically aren't open for public comment, council members asked that HSOY executive director Shawn Smith answer some questions.
To a question by Councilman Ed Thomas about whether HSOY would want to continue to provide animal control, Smith responded that the agency isn't prepared to go back into code enforcement, “but we certainly want to retain kenneling.”
Thomas also referred to the new complex HSOY just completed at no cost to taxpayers, saying he is hesitant about the redundancy of facilities and skeptical when government wants to take over something.
Smith noted that the new state-of-the-art HSOY complex can house 120 dogs and an estimated 70 cats. With the area's current animal population, that's not enough room, he acknowledged. But the expectation is that through HSOY's “robust” spay-neuter program, the area's animal overpopulation will be brought down to a more manageable level and the complex will be adequate for future needs.
“We need to get to the root of the problem,” he said. “There are too many animals.”
City Administrator Greg Wilkinson concluded the discussion by saying the joint kennel option “is not something to rush into.” He said public input and outreach will take place before anything is decided.