BY THEO DOUGLAS AND JAMES BURGER Californian staff writers email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
County officials will meet in the next few days to talk about how to pursue a long-term agreement for animal sheltering with the city of Bakersfield, County Administrative Officer John Nilon said Monday.
Apparently, county Animal Control Director Jen Woodard didn't get the memo.
Just after 2 p.m. Monday, she sent an email to a long list of animal advocates and pet rescue groups announcing -- in so many words -- that the city was evicting the county from the shelter it has run for decades on South Mount Vernon Avenue.
"We are currently exploring different locations for the future home of the Kern shelter. We have been given a deadline of September 30th to vacate the premises at the Mount Vernon location," the email said.
Nilon said Woodard seems to have misinterpreted a report on the city-county situation that was delivered to the Bakersfield City Council last week
Monday was Woodard's first day back at work after a European vacation.
"She may be looking at newspaper stories," Nilon said, "and maybe doesn't have all the information."
Woodard couldn't be reached Monday.
The county has sheltered city animals at the Mount Vernon shelter on a contract basis since 2003.
But the two jurisdictions have fallen into dispute about how much the city owes the county for the service.
And, since the county shelter sits on city land, the county would be booted if the two groups cannot agree on a solution by Sept. 30, when the county's lease expires.
Earlier this year, the two agencies agreed to investigate the operation of side-by-side shelters at the Mount Vernon site. The county would have to build a new shelter while the city would take over the old shelter and renovate it.
The city report -- delivered by Assistant to the City Manager Steve Teglia -- advised the Bakersfield City Council that the city hadn't heard from the county and should be prepared to start running a shelter at the end of September if a deal couldn't be reached.
Nilon said he hadn't seen Woodard's email, but it is the county's desire to develop a two-year agreement with the city to keep the status quo while the two agencies explore new shelter plans.
That process has been delayed because the county is trying to evaluate the cost and value of building a new facility, he said.
The county, Nilon said, has every reason to believe the city also wants to reach an agreement.
City Manager Alan Tandy said at the July 17 council meeting that the city will need every bit of the time left on the county's lease to prepare to run the shelter by itself.
"There's less than three months (until) the expiration of the lease," Tandy said. "We're going to need every minute of it."
Preparations have already begun, according to Rhonda Smiley, assistant to the city manager.
"If the lease simply expires -- which may occur -- the conditions say that the premises has to be left in a clean, useable-type condition. We simply would have to be able to assume intake and care from the county of the animals," Smiley said. "Our plan is to partner with SPCA and Bakersfield Homeless Center to put a plan into place."
Details of those entities' involvement are still being worked out, Smiley said, noting that the city does remain hopeful that a pact with the county still may be reached.
"We're still hopeful of hearing from them," Smiley said. "If it comes to the city needing to carve out our program, we will do everything necessary to be ready. That isn't necessarily the position we want to be placed in, but if it comes to it we will be ready."