The agreement between Jackson County and the city of Independence for operating the Regional Animal Shelter cleared its final hurdle Monday with the County Legislature's approval.
On July 1, the city will take over the shelter after the previous operator – Great Plains SPCA – gave its six-month notice in January. That announcement, which came just a year after the three parties had agreed on a new five-year deal.
Under the two-year agreement, the county will buy the shelter's seven acres from Independence for $240,000, then lease the facility back to the city for $1. The county will also pay the city $100,000 a year for two years to ease the transition, and the facility will still be called the Jackson County Regional Animal Shelter.
The county still has several more years of making about $450,000 in bond payments on the shelter, which opened in 2013 on Missouri 78 east of the MCC-Blue River campus and essentially replaced the previous city shelter.
The Independence City Council approved the new agreement last month, and the city started the process of hiring 26 new positions. Under the previous contract, the city paid the county $546,522 in 2018 toward animal shelter operations, which the county passed on to Great Plains. That figure was slated to be $557,452 this year.
The two-year time frame gives both sides – particularly the city – a chance to re-evaluate operations, if necessary, given that Great Plains' announcement left everyone else scrambling for a solution. A vast majority of the animals at the shelter come from Independence.
“We wanted to get something done that would be good for everybody, knowing that wouldn't be able to lay out the same kind of money we had been,” said Legislator Tony Miller, D-Lee's Summit, who chairs the legislature's land-use committee. “That animal shelter services most of Eastern Jackson County, but Independence taxpayers are also county taxpayers. What we had to figure out is what's reasonable.
“(The bond payment) was on a building on land we did not own, but we also knew that Independence's needs were much greater than ours, and over time we're counting on them to make it work. We need for them to succeed, but we're not going to give $1 million.”
City officials say they intend to continue running the facility as a “no-kill” shelter, meaning animals are kept until a new home is found for them, barring the occasional vicious dog or clear medical need. Great Plains said it maintained a live-release rate well above 90 percent.
The City Council voted last month to put the “use tax” – that is, extending existing the 2.25 percent city taxes to online sales, not just brick-and-mortar store sales – on the Aug. 6 ballot. The new revenue would be split between the animal shelter and police up to certain thresholds. That would mean about $750,000 a year for the shelter, though City Manager Zach Walker has said the two-year deal is not dependent on that potential new funding.
“They're going to test the waters, and a lot of us are going to support that in our private way to help that (use tax) campaign,” Miller said. “Hopefully everybody's needs will be met. We've always said that one of the legacies is that it was intended to be a no-kill shelter. We're having to trust Independence as partners, I believe they will do that.”
Great Plains SPCA will be holding an adoption special through July 14 to decrease the number of animals at the shelter during the transition period.