There may be at least one lone wolf among the pact for regional animal control.
While the mood was congenial for last Friday’s Spokane Regional Council of Governments – which held a morning-long session at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center -- it was made known that not all of the participants was necessarily ready to sign off on for a proposed regional animal shelter.
“The Spokane City Council is not united (on the issue of regional animal control),” Spokane City Council President Joe Shogan told those assembled at the meeting, which included representatives from the city of Spokane Valley, Liberty Lake, Spokane County and other local cities and towns. “”It would be very hard for us to position ourselves (in favor) for an August or November election.”
Shogan’s comment came after a presentation by Spokane County Commissioner Todd Mielke and Nancy Hill, director of Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service, on ideas for possibly partnering with SCRAPS for a new shelter to be located in a refurbished warehouse at 1001 N. Havana. The necessary work could be done for around $10 million, they said, as opposed to the $15 million it would take to build a new structure.
The current location on North Flora in Spokane Valley has been deemed unworkable due to lack of space and the inability to expand. SCRAPS’s headquarters is geographically cut off by Union Pacific Railroad tracks to the west, and it is currently not on the sewer system.
“It’s a specialty facility that requires a lot of water (for cleanup),” Mielke said.
Spokane currently contracts with SpokAnimal for animal control, but that organization is positioning itself to eventually get out of its contract with the city. That would leave a partnership with SCRAPS as the next-best solution.
Mielke said a levy lid lift for nine years that would increase property taxes by 4 or 5 cents might be the most favorable way to present the issue to voters, which could be passed with just a 50-percent-plus-one vote. A 20-year bond issue – another alternative – would require a 60-percent supermajority.
While Mielke said SCRAPS would be “challenged” to wait too much longer for a new headquarters, he added that he hoped the city of Spokane would “remain neutral” if it decide to pursue other options for animal control.
“If you oppose it, what’s the alternative?” Mielke asked those in attendance.
If the ballot question were to appear on the November ballot, it may have some company. In addition to the local council elections, the general election has been eyed as a possibility for a vote on a new jail facility for the West Plains.
Vicky Dalton, Spokane County auditor, reminded those in attendance that elections can cost less for those involved if they opt to share the cost. Also, she said, 2011 marks the final year for May special elections.
Capt. John McGrath, jail commander, said the ballot question would likely ask voters to approve a $199 million plan – down from a $265 million proposal – that would raise property taxes for Spokane County residents 45 to 50 cents per $1,000 in assessed valuation.
The existing jail, built in 1986, returned to “critical status” this week due to overcrowding. The jail’s population reached 660, 10 above the maximum. While the decree was dropped Tuesday, no other misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor charges can be booked unless an exception is made.
The plan for a new jail, in addition to the campus-facility near the Medical Lake exit on Interstate 90, would also include a community corrections center located near the Public Safety Building at the courthouse campus that would specialize in job-creation and drug-treatment programs, among others.
“The point is that this more than just bricks,” McGrath said. “We are trying to reduce recidivism.”