Jackson County would pay the city of Independence $100,000 a year for two years to ease the transition as the city takes over running the Regional Animal Shelter in July, with the intent to continue to run it as a “no-kill” shelter.
That agreement got unanimous approval by the Independence City Council Monday night. It still needs an OK from the County Legislature.
The county would buy the seven acres the shelter sits on for $240,000 and then, under a two-year agreement, lease the facility back to the city for $1. The county would pay the city $100,000 a year in transitional costs, and the facility would still be called the Jackson County Regional Animal Shelter.
“This would take effect on July 1,” the county’s chief of health services, Jaime Master, told county legislators Monday.
The current operator of the shelter – Great Plains SPCA – gave notice in January that it’s leaving in July, and officials acknowledge some urgency in getting a new deal in place.
“We have to have this, and this gives us time,” Independence Council Member Tom Van Camp said at Monday night’s council meeting.
Currently the city pays the county more than $550,000 a year for animal shelter services, money the county passes on to Great Plains, which Great Plains has said is not enough to run the shelter.
The overwhelming majority of the animals taken in are from Independence – about 4,700 a year, compared with about 200 from the unincorporated areas of the county.
A major wrinkle is running the facility as a “no-kill” shelter, meaning animals are kept until a new home is found for them. The occasional vicious dog is put down, but overall Great Plains says its live-release rate is more than 90 percent.
Legislator Tony Miller, D-Lee’s Summit, said officials hope to keep running the shelter with a no-kill policy.
“At the same time, we can’t afford to spend what we’ve been spending,” he said. He also said the county can’t tell the city how to run the shelter.
The City Council will consider putting the “use tax” – that is, extending existing city taxes to online sales, not just brick-and-mortar store sales – on the Aug. 6 ballot, and could vote next week on the matter. The new revenue would be split evenly between the animal shelter and police. That would mean about $750,000 a year for the shelter, though City Manager Zach Walker said Monday the new deal with the county is not dependent on that potential new funding.
In a sense, this conversation has come full circle. Several years ago, the city and county worked out a plan for a new shelter to replace the old Independence Animal Shelter on Vista Drive. The idea was a new facility committed to a no-kill policy.
The deal they agreed to was that the county build a new shelter on city land at 21001 E. Missouri 78. It’s east of the MCC-Blue River campus. It opened in 2013. The county issued bonds for construction and is paying roughly $450,000 a year on that for several more years.
The original idea was the county building a shelter and city running it, but the county decided to go another way, choosing instead Great Plains to run it. That was largely at the insistence of County Legislator Dennis Waits of Independence. Great Plains and the county signed a second five-year agreement last year, but things have changed. Waits retired from the Legislature last year, and early this year Great Plains said it was out, that it couldn’t cover its costs.
Legislator Crystal Williams, D-Kansas City, has been critical of the current arrangement, pointing out that all county taxpayers are picking up these costs for Independence and the unincorporated areas but that other cities in the county are not getting the benefit of this service. She said the new arrangement is a good step in the right direction.
The Examiner’s Mike Genet contributed to this article.