Spokane city officials Monday again expressed a desire not to run with the pack for a fall vote to pay for a new animal control facility.
But, during the meeting between the Spokane and Spokane Valley city councils, officials from both governments wagged their tails at the idea of a collaborative approach going forward and getting more information from the affected agencies.
The meeting was a follow-up to last month’s Spokane Regional Council of Governments gathering where Spokane City Council President Joe Shogan said it would be hard for his city to “position ourselves for an August or November election” for a $10 million levy lid lift for nine years to fund the refurbishment of a Spokane-owned building at 1001 N. Havana that could accommodate a new facility for Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service.
Costs to buy land and build a new building would be closer to $15 million, said county Commissioner Todd Mielke, who stopped by the confab at Spokane City Hall to offer some insight.
“The object is not to raise operating costs,” he said. “We have some work to do, and we continue to move forward.”
Shogan said on Monday he was hoping to hear from the heads of
SCRAPS, the Spokane Humane Society and SpokAnimal, who currently has the contract for animal control in the city of Spokane. While SpokAnimal officials have said in the past that they no longer wish to provide that service to the city, Shogan said he has received “varied conversations” with the organization.
“Half the time they’re interested in doing animal control, and half the time they are not interested,” he said. “I’ve heard various things.”
Representatives from both SCRAPS and the Humane Society said they were highly interested in a collaborative, regional effort moving forward.
Spokane Valley Council Member Bill Gothmann said that it was doubtful the city could commit to a regional partnership until it was clear what Spokane would do.
“It seems to me Spokane Valley can’t do anything until Spokane does,” he said.
SCRAPS, which currently holds the contract for Spokane Valley, is looking to relocate from its site on North Flora as it is unable to expand. Sewer service is nonexistent, and the building is geographically cut off by Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks in the area.
Spokane City Council Member John Snyder said he could see voters this fall not being amenable to raising property taxes – especially if local governments could figure out a way to pay for the new facility themselves within their existing budgets. Also, he added, there are likely future elections within the next year that will ask voters to fund improvements or new construction for the county jail, Spokane Convention Center and various local school districts.
“How do we convince (voters) that this is something we should prioritize first?” he asked.
Spokane Mayor Mary Verner said her priority has always been to find “nonvoting solution” to animal control.
“We’ve tried to think creatively to do that,” she said.
Gothmann raised the possibility of the city of Spokane Valley coming up with $2 million to get the project moving forward without an election.
“Could we make this work?” he asked. “I’m just asking the question.”
Mielke countered that since SCRAPS would be the lead agency, it had always been assumed the county would own the building. But if Spokane Valley were to agree to sell the facility to the county in the future “that might work,” he said.
Verner said she asked for an appraisal of the facility to be done to get a better idea of the structure’s actual worth. Spokane officials are also still waiting to get more information from SpokAnimal’s board of directors as to its future plans.