Cattery back on commission agenda for special meeting
The City Commission has scheduled a special meeting for 5:30 p.m. April 30 to consider rescinding their action to postpone the cattery contract.
On April 2, the commission voted 3-2 to postpone action to Sept. 3 on awarding a $462,000 contract to Detailed Construction for the cattery addition at the Great Falls Animal Shelter.
That action effectively rejected the bid since under the terms of the invitation to bid and instructions to bidders, the contract is to be awarded within 60 days of the bid opening on March 20.
Public response was largely frustration with the commission’s decision and on April 16, Commissioner Owen Robinson, who originally motioned to delay the decision, suggested that they schedule a special meeting to rescind the action and then reconsider the contract on May 7.
Staff is recommending that commissioner rescind the April 2 action during the special meeting so that the commission can consider awarding the contract on May 7 within the 60 day deadline.
Staff and volunteers at the city animal shelter have been fundraising for years to fund improvements and the cattery addition and the contract would be funded entirely with donations, other than the purchase of the hydroincinerator that the commission approved in the shelter’s 2017 budget.
Commissioners met community pushback since Robinson is a former president of the Maclean Cameron Animal Adoption Center and pushed for the delay so that he and Commissioner Mary Moe could continue meetings with Maclean’s foundation to explore a possible partnership between the city and the foundation.
The two commissioners had been meeting with the foundation outside the public eye.
In February, Robinson announced that he wanted to have those meetings with the foundation and said that since it was just two commissioners, no public notice would be needed and it wasn’t a quorum so those meetings wouldn’t have to meet public meeting laws.
He has also said in public meetings that he and Moe are acting in their official capacity on behalf of the city. Staff had been left largely out of those discussions this spring.
The relationship between the city and the animal foundation has been a rocky affair for more than a decade.
Robinson and Moe said they believe that tension can be overcome and they were interested in determining if a possible partnership could save the city about $200,000 in animal related operations.
During discussion on the cattery, Robinson said that one thought was that the city should close its current facility and move operations into the Maclean’s newer facility.
The city shelter is typically at capacity on cats every spring or summer and last week, the shelter posted to its Facebook page that it’s at capacity on dogs. A number of citizens said in the commission meeting and in written comments that regardless of their opinions on the foundation or the city, both facilities are full and animals need more space.
The city shelter was built in the 1970s and serves an average of 2,000 animals annually, of which about 800 are cats, according to the shelter.
The city shelter operates with an annual budget of about $529,000.
In a response to The Electric in February, the center’s board said that donations and service income fund 100 percent of their operations.
In their response, the board said their operating budget fluctuates based on the number of animals they take in and the services they offer.
The foundation paid off its $1.7 million debt on the building in February 2018.
According to a response to The Electric from the foundation board, the foundation has $157,797.41 of remaining debt on the land.
“The owners gave us a tremendous deal on the land and the payment schedule to acquire the land. In addition, we have a donor who has committed to match half of the annual payment through 2022. We have 7 more payments to acquire the land,” the board said in a response to The Electric.
As of the end of February, the center had six full-time employees, meaning they work 32 hours or more, and six part-time employees, according to the foundation board.