• Council hears possible changes for animal shelter

  • Independence City Council members next week will vote on possibly a dozen changes regarding operations of a new animal shelter.

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  • Independence City Council members next week will vote on possibly a dozen changes regarding operations of a new animal shelter.
    City Manager Robert Heacock outlined those potential changes at Monday’s study session, and council members voted 6-0, with At-Large Council Member Chris Whiting absent, to consider those changes in a final vote next Tuesday. The changes would be made to an amendment of the original 2009 agreement between the city and Jackson County. (The vote is Tuesday because the council is off on Monday for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.)
    Heacock said he had worked with county staff in drafting the potential changes and that the changes must be approved by both the City Council and the County Legislature to take effect.
    Based on feedback from City Council members and citizens, some of those changes include the following: The county would remain responsible for operating costs of the shelter, including utility payments and building and grounds maintenance; the city would remain owner of the land that the shelter sits on; free incinerator services would be used for animals only from Independence or unincorported Jackson County; and current city animal shelter employees would be considered for employment at the new shelter, including 10 part-time shelter employees who are slated to be laid off when the new shelter opens.
    Next Tuesday, council members will vote on the amendment – with potentially a dozen changes from what the County Legislature approved last month – to the original 2009 agreement between Jackson County and the City Council.
    The new animal shelter is constructed in eastern Independence, but according to Heacock, the facility isn’t completed and many city officials hadn’t been able to tour it until recently.
    “Honestly, we had hoped to be in it in August (of 2012),” Heacock said. “That has not happened, but that’s not because of a lack of agreement – I would say, from this point forward, that’s a fair claim, but again, our hope is to get it right.”
    Heacock also said the city, through the amendment, would not pay Great Plains SPCA directly and that the amendment to the 2009 contract is solely between the county and the city. Last month, the County Legislature approved a separate five-year contract with Great Plains SPCA to run the shelter, effective Jan. 1.
    But that date has come and gone, and in response to a question from District 4 Council Member Eileen Weir Monday night, Heacock said he didn’t want to speak for the county or the new shelter operator on when the facility would be open for business.
    “I would say, from 30 to 45 days, from the time that they know it’s a go, would not be unreasonable,” Heacock said, “but I’m not going to speak for them.”
    In addition to the nine changes outlined by Heacock, council members said they also would like to see three additional issues addressed in the proposed amendment up for a vote next week. Those issues include the formation of an oversight committee for the new shelter and adequate city representation on that board; a provision addressing the city recovering costs it incurred last summer when it thought it would open and operate the shelter as approved in the 2012-13 budget; and the possibility of those 10 laid-off employees receiving three months’ worth of severance pay.
    Page 2 of 2 - Citizens wishing to comment to council members prior to next Tuesday’s vote must sign up with the city clerk’s office by noon Friday. Call 816-325-7010 for more information.

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