Local News

Wednesday, Dec 19 2012 08:51 PM

City manager, county chief clash over animal shelter costs

BY ANTONIE BOESSENKOOL Californian staff writer aboessenkool@bakersfield.com

An agreement between Bakersfield and Kern County over animal control may have seemed even less likely after Wednesday's meeting of the group tasked with reaching a resolution.

The Metro Bakersfield Animal Control Committee has been meeting every other week to try to come up with a long-term agreement for the city and country to share costs for animal control and the county-operated animal shelter that sits on city land. The two have a temporary agreement in place that ends in June 2013.

But reaching consensus on sharing costs in the long-term has been a battle, although some staff said there has been progress.

Wednesday's meeting turned heated when Kern County Administrative Officer John Nilon responded to earlier questions from his counterpart in the city, City Manager Alan Tandy.

Tandy had suggested at a previous meeting that the city should get credit for property taxes city residents pay to the county for county services.

Nilon had prepared an answer.

Kern County provides many services for Bakersfield residents for which it's not adequately reimbursed, such as housing jailed inmates, search and rescue, coroner's services and libraries, he said.

Residents in unincorporated parts of Kern County are effectively subsidizing services that city residents use, he said.

"City residents are not paying for animal control services out of their taxes. So there is no credit to be applied," he said. Nilon added that the county isn't required to provide animal shelter services for Bakersfield residents. "Clearly, that is the responsibility of the city."

Things went downhill from there.

"I'm not at all in agreement with your assumptions," Tandy said

Tandy and Nilon also clashed over another point, whether the city should pay for indirect costs for running the shelter. That would be the cost of county staff whose time is split between the shelter and unrelated county work, for example. Nilon said all shelter costs should be shared fairly.

Tandy rebutted, saying an agreement with the county isn't a done deal.

"We are considering contracting with the county," and cost will be the determining factor, he said. "The higher you run the costs, the greater the alternatives we have to review. So run them as high as you wish, and we will make a future decision."

"I'm not running costs high," Nilon said. "I'm using objective (accounting) to have a fair and equitable discussion."

The city and county disagree on what "total cost" means, City Councilman Ken Weir said. "They are two different formulas. I think that's a fact at this point. ... At some point, that's going to have to be reconciled."

"This is almost like a shotgun wedding at this point," he said. "If we can't get past friction ... I don't see how this is going to work."

Weir and county supervisors Mike Maggard and Zack Scrivner are the current elected officials who make up the committee. Former Bakersfield City Councilman David Couch, now a county supervisor, will be replaced on the committee.

The discussion eventually cooled.

"If the city wants to have a number (for the cost of running the shelter), help us come up with what that number should be," Maggard said.

Jen Woodard, the county's new animal control director, and Steve Teglia of the city manager's office, said they also have been meeting to go over the costs for the shelter. Both said Wednesday they've made some progress on outlining those costs, such as for shelter maintenance, and that they hope to have a draft agreement to look over in mid-January when the committee will meet next.

"We're trying to move as quickly as we can down this road, and hopefully by January 16 we can have something to chew on," Teglia said.

Wednesday's meeting came in the wake of a dust-up two weeks ago over a $898,250 contract with AngelDogs Foundation to provide spay and neuter surgeries on animals adopted out of the shelter until June 2014. City representatives complained that they had been left out of the discussion on the contract before it was brought before the county Board of Supervisors for approval. In the end, the county amended the contract so it will end in June 2013 (and cost $378,250) instead of June 2014 as it was first proposed. Since the city is paying a fixed cost under its temporary agreement with the county, the AngelDogs contract won't cost the city more under the temporary agreement.

But city representatives have said the county didn't adequately look for cheaper options, and the AngelDogs contract will be part of the costs Bakersfield is asked to share in the future.

Woodard said the county is looking at other options for spay and neuter services, aside from the AngelDogs Foundation.

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