By The Bakersfield Californian
Seriously? That's it? Pack up your flea powder and get out? The city of Bakersfield's decision to evict the Kern County Animal Control Department from the shelter it operates on South Mount Vernon Avenue is baffling and irresponsible.
It's baffling because the two government entities, which have been arguing for months about how best to handle animal control services, seemed to have been moving in a positive direction in negotiations. At least that's what county officials thought, based on recent communications.
It's irresponsible because it will presumably force the county to locate and lease another facility, invest in converting that facility into an animal holding center and hire and train workers. That means taxpayers will be paying for not one but two animal control infrastructures with largely (but not completely) overlapping duties -- a new set of buildings, trucks, staffs and administrators.
In a letter delivered Wednesday, the city gave the county until Sept. 30 -- when the current city-county agreement ends -- to clear out, although the county can continue using the shelter until Dec. 1. Well, thanks for that.
Here's a better idea. The time has come for both the city and county to contract for animal control services with the SPCA.
In addition to the unnecessary expense of largely redundant facilities, having two shelters and two enforcement agencies will be confusing to residents.
The county has had a resolving door of animal control officers over the years, and none have been stars. The current one, Jen Woodard, seems to have a knack for irritating many of the people she is compelled to deal with: county supervisors, city staff, volunteers and the general public.
For the city, going back to the contract services of the SPCA would be taking things full circle. The city took back animal control duties some years ago when the SPCA increased the amount it wanted the city to pay for service. (Note to City Manager Alan Tandy: You've gotta pay what it's worth. Paying the salaries, benefits and pensions for public employees to do the job is costly, too.)
With both the county and city kicking in, the SPCA's costs should be covered. The county and other affected jurisdictions would still have to figure out what should be done about service in outlying areas and cities, but it would most likely be another contracting situation. But start with metro Bakersfield and use that model to figure out the rest.
Ratchet up efforts to make spay and neuter cheaper and more convenient so that the task at hand -- for whichever agency is tasked with it -- becomes easier, more humane and, perhaps in time, less expensive.
Create an oversight board appointed by the Bakersfield City Council and the county Board of Supervisors to assure that tax dollars are being appropriately spent, the service is cost effective and the SPCA is fully living up to its obligations under terms of the contract.
The bottom line: animal control services need to be merged into a single department serving metro Bakersfield.
The inability of the city and county to iron this out is shocking and sad. It seems fair to conclude that maybe neither is equipped to pull it off satisfactorily.