If the turnout of area leaders was any indication, the idea of regional animal protection – and a new facility to go with it – received a major boost last Friday.
The triumvirate of Spokane County commissioners – Bonnie Mager, Mark Richard and Todd Mielke – headlined the June 11 gathering at the headquarters of Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service off North Sullivan Road in a far corner of the Spokane Business and Industrial Park. The list of distinguished guests also included Spokane Valley Mayor Tom Towey, Council Members Bill Gothmann, Gary Schimmels and Liberty Lake Mayor Wendy Van Orman.
Nancy Hill, SCRAPS executive director, led the luminaries on a guided tour of animal shelter and administrative offices before the meeting convened in a storage space/garage where talk turned to constructing a new venue that would serve as home of a restructured regional agency.
“The Spokane community has a lot to be proud of,” Hill said. “How we treat our animals shows how we are as a community.”
Hill described how the conversation about combining SCRAPS with SpokAnimal, the city of Spokane’s municipal organization, “goes back at least 10 years,” but has been treading water as of late. After the Spokane City Council approved turning animal control duties over to SCRAPS in 2008, a city bond that would have provided $4.2 million for expansion of the county shelter failed at the ballot last March.
Things have been opaque at best ever since.
“I’m tired of talking about it,” said Hill. “We’ve spent a lot of time on this. I think it has to be a countywide decision by the voters. I think it’s sellable.”
Richard noted that while the county already has “a regional approach to the issue,” including a multitude of cities and unincorporated county areas under the SCRAPS umbrella, adding on the city of Spokane would improve overall efficiency. Even Liberty Lake, which once handled animal protection through its municipal police department, joined up with SCRAPS over a year ago.
“It’s worked out really well for us,” said Doug Smith, Liberty Lake director of community development.
Hill described how one regional agency would cut down on administrative costs and unite regulations and licensing under one roof. A new centralized building, Hill added, would also be a plus.
“Right now, you have a real community resource,” she said. “This would take it to the next level.”
Richard said a larger, modernized facility must be a consideration for SCRAPS even if SpokAnimal was not part of the equation. Still, with issues like a new jail appearing before voters in the not-too-distant future, Richard said leaders must decide how to prioritize the issue.
“I don’t want to be standing alone proposing a solution,” he said.
Mielke said that while initial projections had the cost of a new facility in the $12 million to $14 million range, a bond initiative would likely be more around $15 million. One scenario would have taxpayers paying off the amount in 20 years, at a cost of between $7 to $8 a year in property taxes, Mielke said. A six-year funding measure would run approximately $13 a year.
Speculations are that a new regional facility would handle a workload of 50 percent from the city of Spokane and 25 percent from Spokane Valley, the county’s two largest jurisdictions. The remaining 25 percent would come from cities like Liberty Lake and Cheney as well as unincorporated county areas.
“If all the taxpayers supported the issue, the cost would potentially go down,” said Richard.
Gothmann said Spokane Valley’s neighbors to the west would have the most influence on where the discussion went from here.
“From my perspective, the driving force is Spokane – just in terms of how we need to accomplish it on a regional level.”
Towey said Spokane Valley would take on “a supportive role.”
“The regional approach is the best solution but we all have to work together,” he said. “I think we’re on the right track.”
The two-hour gathering closed with leaders agreeing to form a smaller discussion group that would look at issues like capital costs and maintenance expenses. Attendees from last Friday’s meeting will convene again in 60 days to re-examine the matter with the possibility of placing a bond vote on the November 2011 ballot.
Want to find out more?
To learn more about the Food $ense program or other offerings through the Washington State University, Spokane County extension office, call 477-2170 or visit www.spokane-county.wsu.edu. To learn about the Early Childhood Assistance Program, call the Spokane Valley office at 924-1830 or visit www.ehsnrc.org.