Despite the promise of some long-term cost savings with a different provider, the Spokane Valley City Council decided Tuesday to continue its longstanding relationship with SCRAPS for animal control.
The council arrived at consensus to move forward with negotiations with Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service – with the unanimous blessing of city staffers and public commentators weighing in on the issue – provided a partnership with the city of Spokane can be worked out, as well.
Spokane currently contracts with SpokAnimal, which also courted the city of Spokane Valley for its business.
In the end, however, there were few criticisms of SCRAPS, which has provided animal control for the city since incorporation and long before when the area was a part of unincorporated Spokane County.
“As we’ve seen in the past, our citizens have an aversion to change when the provider is giving a high level of service,” said Morgan Koudelka, senior administrative analyst, citing existing police, library and fire-protection services as other examples. “After reviewing all the facts, the staff did reach a unanimous decision to remain with SCRAPS.”
Koudelka also said that Spokane Mayor David Condon has indicated he is also supportive of moving his city’s animal-control contract away from SpokAnimal to a regional pact with Spokane Valley and SCRAPS.
During the public hearing portion of the meeting, Spokane City Council Member Steve Salvatori said he would like the two governments to meeting to discuss the possibility of a regional collaboration where both SCRAPS and SpokAnimal could join forces.
“We’re talking about a 10- or 20-year contract,” he said. “We’re all residents of Spokane County and we know SCRAPS needs a new facility. SpokAnimal has one. I know there are a million details that need to be worked out.”
Spokane County officials have proposed a 20-year contract at $295,691 to start in 2013, with annual adjustments based on the Consumer Price Index. That cost is based on a partnership with Spokane, as well, and the purchase of a new shelter central to both jurisdictions. SCRAPS current facility on North Flora Road is 40 years old and would be difficult to upgrade.
Directors of SpokAnimal have proposed a less costly, 10-year deal that would begin at $250,000 and also tied to the CPI after that. But, according to those who testified, cost isn’t everything.
Cheryl Mitchell, an attorney who specializes in animal law, said she had “four file boxes of complaints” against SpokAnimal, while Kerry Masters, vice president of Animal Advocates of the Inland Northwest, said she has never had any problems with SCRAPS.
“I think you guys are so lucky that you’ve always dealt with SCRAPS,” Masters said. “SCRAPS is doing a great job.”
Chris Bowers, who is on the Animal Advocates board, said the cost of dealing with SpokAnimal is too high in the long run.
“SpokAnimal will make an offer that is too tempting to pass up, but it’s the animals that suffer,” he said.
Koudelka said he and his staff found that SCRAPS did score higher in level of service, training and professionalism. There are also pluses in that the county shelter is located in Spokane Valley and well-maintained for its age.
“It does have a benefit to our citizens,” he said.
Council Member Brenda Grassel said she would like to give some consideration to Salvatori’s remarks regarding a regional partnership between the two organizations as it would be expensive for a new facility to be built and remodeled.
“Cost is really why we started this whole process,” she said.
Koudelka countered, however, that efforts to do just that over the past four years have been unsuccessful.
“It is a significant purchase,” he said but added that neither SCRAPS nor SpokAnimal have given “no indication to do something jointly.”
“Waiting hasn’t generated anything new,” Koudleka said. “We have an opportunity to move forward rather than move backward.”
Council Member Dean Grafos suggested the city could explore a settle-and-adjust model of contracting with SCRAPS while Spokane works out its own details with Spokane County for partnering for animal control.
Mayor Tom Towey added that nothing is for certain until a formal contract is signed.
“We’re just starting negotiations and a dialogue,” he said.
A follow-up report will be presented at a future council meeting.