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Examiner
  • City says it still has shelter contract, even though county is seeking bids

  • Even as the Jackson County Legislature takes another look at just who will run the new Regional Animal Shelter when it opens, the city of Independence says its 2009 agreement with the county is still in effect.

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  • Even as the Jackson County Legislature takes another look at just who will run the new Regional Animal Shelter when it opens, the city of Independence says its 2009 agreement with the county is still in effect.
    “We have a contract with obligations both ways,” City Manager Robert Heacock said this week, adding that the city has met all of its obligations under that agreement.
    A week ago, the Legislature asked for new proposals, meaning any group could step up with a bid to run the shelter. In connection with that, the county held a walk-through of the building this week, even as contractors were working on doors, pipes and other items. The building remains a few weeks away from being ready to occupy. Representatives of just one group – the Kansas City Pet project, which runs the Kansas City shelter – came to the walk-through. Heacock indicated the city saw no need to take part in that.
    Heacock echoed the comments of County Legislator Dennis Waits, D-Independence, who earlier in the week stressed that he wants to continue to work with the city.
    “Let’s value the relationship that got us here,” Heacock said, “and let’s critically evaluate the options as we go forward.”
    Three years ago the city and county entered into an agreement: The county would build a $5.5 million shelter on Missouri 78 east of the community college, replacing the city’s far smaller shelter on Vista Drive. The city would run the new shelter and take in strays from unincorporated parts of the county.
    Waits, who is passionate about the welfare of animals and who has long taken the lead among county legislators on this issue, has described the new shelter as a way to do a much better job of caring for and finding new homes for strays and the dogs and cats that owners relinquish – and having to euthanize far fewer of them. The 2009 agreement obliges the city to “work towards the goal of maintaining a ‘no kill’ shelter and to work to encourage adoption of these animals.”
    The county’s new “request for proposal,” however, is more emphatic: “It is the intent of the County that this shelter shall operate as a ‘no kill’ shelter, providing for less than 10 percent euthanasia rates.” (Even in a “no-kill” shelter, officials say, some animals such as aggressive dogs from time to time have to be put down.) Waits said this week he “absolutely” believes the shelter can open with no-kill numbers, not just work toward it eventually.
    Heacock said the city has made good progress there and would, at the moment, qualify for that status at the current shelter.
    “Every month we’ve continued to have success,” he said.
    Months ago, the city put the operations out to bid, but rejected as too high the one bid it got, from Heartland Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Instead the city would run it itself, but county officials and the SPCA have criticized that plan as being too short on staff and overly optimistic on revenues from fees. The city says it hopes for partnerships – lots of volunteers, for one thing – to control costs.
    Page 2 of 2 - Heacock points out the city has cut about 100 jobs over the last four years and has many needs such as more police, so the City Council has set a firm limit on how much the city will put into the shelter.
    “The council’s been very clear about priorities in the city,” he said.
    Dan Tarwater, D-Kansas City and chairman of the County Legislature, pointed out that county taxpayers have already put up $5.5 million.
    “We’re looking to protect the taxpayers,” he said. Any new plan needs to be revenue neutral for the county, he said.
    Tarwater said he also takes the view that the 2009 agreement remains in effect but stressed he can’t speak for Waits. It’s not on the agenda, but legislators are expected to discuss the issue Monday. Any new proposals are due next Friday.
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