SCRAPS Director Nancy Hill was just shy of begging for some of her agency’s namesake on Tuesday.
“I’m not on my knees yet,” Hill said.
Fortunately, it didn’t come to that.
Hill, director of the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service, was fresh from an Oregon coast vacation and eager to ask county commissioners for a helping hand in dealing with some anticipated budget reductions and acquiring some much-needed workspace.
The commissioners, who have to deal with their own general fund woes, were willing to acquiesce, provided Hill had a plan – and she did. By the time the meeting was over, Hill had received a commitment for $48,616, to be paid over three years, for a 64-by-24-foot modular office building to be placed next to the current SCRAPS facility at 2521 N. Flora Road in Spokane Valley.
She also had the commissioners’ support to raise dog license fees by $5 ($10 for unneutered canines) to match the city of Spokane’s rates – cat licenses are already equal in both jurisdictions. The only caveat is that contracted partners like the cities of Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake also must be willing to go along with the plan.
“I think they will be,” Hill said. “They want the service they have now.”
Doing nothing, however, would be detrimental to animal control efforts as Hill would be forced to reduce her budget by nearly $150,000 through the end of 2011 – a move that would force layoffs, decrease hours of operation at the animal shelter and cause delay in response times for calls for service.
Under Hill’s plan, license fees would be increased to $25 for neutered or spayed dogs and $50 for unaltered canines. That would raise about $128,745 per year. The remainder of the money would be covered through an administrative fee levied the existing spay/neuter voucher program.
Board Chairman Mark Richard said he was concerned about senior citizens who may be affected by the cost increase, but Hill said there is currently a discount available that could be increased.
Space is also an issue at the current facility, as “we’ve outgrown our britches,” Hill told the commissioners. The modular building would provide needed office space, but wouldn’t necessarily be accessible to the public.
“It would allow us to function,” Hill said, adding that she got her feet tangled in a cat trap just the day prior. “It would improve morale and reduce tripping.”
Costs for the leased structure would be recovered through contracts with other jurisdictions – who would be informed before any rate increases would be put into effect, she said.
Hill said she had been delaying meeting with commissioners pending the outcome to further negotiations for regional service throughout Spokane County -- including the city of Spokane, which currently contracts with SpokAnimal. While that agency is looking to move away from animal control, a $4.2 million construction bond failed in Spokane last year, which would have funded expansion of the county shelter.
“We’re still working on the regional approach,” Hill said, adding that a joint meeting was held at SCRAPS headquarters in June with representatives from the affected jurisdictions. “But if we go out for a bond, it will be next year at the earliest.”
A new building, she added, would probably not materialize for at least another two years.
The commissioners, however, said they continue to be supportive of Hill’s approach.
“You’re doing an extraordinary effort,” Richard said.
The commissioners also suggested that Hill try to work with veterinary clinics to encourage pet licensing. Hill said that’s difficult, because vets are competitive in this region and don’t want to scare away clients by demanding more money from pet owners.
The commissioners said, however, that they would assist Hill in furthering those talks.