• January transition in sight for Regional Animal Shelter

  • Jackson County officials say the new Regional Animal Shelter on Missouri 78 in Independence will open Jan. 1 and be run for at least five years by a non-profit group.

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  • Jackson County officials say the new Regional Animal Shelter on Missouri 78 in Independence will open Jan. 1 and be run for at least five years by a non-profit group.
    County legislators, holding their last meeting of 2012, on Monday amended an agreement with the city and awarded a five-year contract to run to the shelter to Great Plains SPCA of Merriam, Kan. They say it will be a “no-kill” shelter, meaning fewer than 10 percent of the dogs, cats and other animals brought in will be euthanized.
    “We’ve upgraded the level of service that’s going to be provided,” County Executive Mike Sanders said.
    The city and county agreed to a deal in 2009. The county would build a $5.5 million shelter on city land near the power plant and Metropolitan Community Colleges-Blue River. The city would run it and pay for those operations, closing its current – and far smaller – shelter on Vista Drive. It would take animals from the city and from unincorporated parts of the county.
    But over the summer, officials ran into what Sanders said “could really be called a standoff at some point.” The city had put the operations out for bid but rejected Great Plains as too costly and decided to have the city Health Department run it instead. County officials challenged the city’s figures on what it would take to adequately run the shelter.
    And county officials, led by Legislator Dennis Waits, D-Independence, pressed for “no-kill” status on day one of operations, even though the 2009 deal only called on the city to be working toward that goal – one city officials insist they now largely meet at the current shelter.
    “I have worn people out with this. I get that,” Waits said Monday. “But I think it’s the right thing to do.”
    Waits, an animal advocate, has long championed the idea of a new shelter for the region, and he has insisted that immediate “no-kill” status was reasonable. He thanked Sanders for “stepping into the middle of the fray.”
    “This will be a plan that will allow Jackson County to look very progressive,” Waits said.
    Even as Waits pressed for changes and talks dragged on, other legislators – like their counterparts on the City Council – insisted that the amount of taxpayer money going to the facility be capped.
    Sanders said the appeal from the county taxpayers’ perspective is that, having put up $5.5 million for construction, county costs are capped through 2040, the life of the agreement with the city. If operational costs rise during that time, the city is on the hook for that, Sanders said.
    “I just want to be assured that this is it,” Legislator Bob Spence, R-Lee’s Summit, asked Sanders.
    “From our standpoint, this is it,” Sanders said.
    Still, the county did end up putting more money on the table. The city’s scheduled cost is $435,000 for 2013 and again in 2014, money sent to the county and passed through to Great Plains. The city’s cost then bumps to $515,000 for the next three years but in effect gets that extra $80,000 a year back because the county will buy the shelter land, paying the city $80,000 in each of those three years.
    Page 2 of 2 - County officials defended the idea of buying the land.
    “We needed to make the deal work,” said Legislature Chairman Dan Tarwater, D-Kansas City.
    “It is a wonderful facility,” Tarwater said. “It is a tragedy that we could not get it open right away.”
    If the SPCA were to leave after this five-year contract, it’s the city’s responsibility – and cost – to find someone else, Sanders said.
    “That’s a remarkable deal,” Sanders said.
    Also Monday, the county accepted a $50,000 payment from R.L. Phillips, the company originally contracted to build the shelter. It couldn’t get a performance bond, however, so the county went to the next lowest bidder. The $50,000 is a settlement to make good on those costs and delays. The county plans to appropriate the money for the shelter.

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