City receives proposal from Maclean for animal services; will continue discussion later
Discussions over a potential partnership with the Maclean Cameron Animal Adoption Center are back in the spotlight at the City of Great Falls.
In the fall, the city issued a request for proposals for the operation of the city’s animal shelter with a due date of Jan. 8. Shortly after the RFP was issued in November, the Maclean requested a 30-60 day extension. In December, commissioners voted to extend the deadline 45 days to Feb. 24.
The Maclean was the only entity to submit a proposal and it was submitted on Feb. 24.
During the March 3 work session, city staff presented their initial review of the proposal to commissioners.
Overall, “the submitted proposal reveals and validates that shutting down the GFAS is not a viable option. A rejection of the RFP will not negatively impact the MCAAC or GFAS, or our community,” Deputy City Manager Chuck Anderson said.
Anderson said the city’s RFP didn’t introduce the option of closing the city’s shelter, which is currently undergoing a $480,000 project to add a cattery and is installing a new hydroincinerator that will increase the city’s revenue generating capacity and cut costs for cremation services.
During the March 3 work session, representatives from the Maclean center said that the city had misinterpreted their responses but acknowledged areas that were incomplete and asked for time to clarify their responses or submit additional information.
In the proposal, Maclean states that if the city shelter were to close, they could provide animal adoption services under a $475,000 service contract. The Maclean proposal states it would not accept any animals other than cats and dogs nor take responsibility for the intake of strays or animal control, or cremation services.
During the meeting, John Huber from Maclean said their proposal does not require the city shelter to close. The proposal doesn’t appear to offer costs for animal adoption services if the city shelter were to remain open and continue to offer some services.
The proposed service contract cost is more than $250,000 less than city’s 2019 budget for the animal shelter.
“However, if the city shelter is not closed, the foundation cannot propose an initial contract price without knowing the level of services that the city would maintain and the costs and income associated with such services,” according to the proposal. “While the foundation believes it has fully complied with all solicitation requirements, it is unable to develop an accurate projection of its costs absent a full understanding of the city’s costs for its retained services. This information is essential to the foundation providing a proposed contract price which will result in substantial savings to the city. Upon receipt of this information, the foundation will provide a firm contract price for its proposed services. City expenses could be offset by increasing the revenue through raising current license fees. The center will require a license for all adopted animals. The center will enter license information at the time of sale in a database shared by the City of Great Falls and center.”
But, if the city were to continue animal control operations, those animals would need to be taken somewhere and some of those animals are not cats and dogs. The city has a new hyrdoincinerator being installed in the existing shelter.
City financial data is publicly available on the website and by request.
During the March 3 meeting, Anderson said he couldn’t understand from reading their proposal why Maclean representatives couldn’t understand the city’s costs when the city provided all expense information from 2008 through 2019.
“How could they not determine what their costs would be if they were to assume services,” Anderson said.
The RFP asked for financial data for the last five years and Maclean provided data for the last four years they’ve been in operation.
Anderson said when the city was asked to provide costs, the city provided it in detail.
“We didn’t get that from the Maclean center,” Anderson said.
The center provided generalized revenues, expenses and debt service, he said.
“That can’t be used to make an informed decision,” Anderson said.
After Anderson’s review of the proposal, Commissioner Owen Robinson said the hope of a possible partnership was to save the city money, not have two facilities operating.
Robinson was formerly a board member at Maclean and in February 2019 announced that he would be pursuing discussions with Maclean for a possible partnership.
On Tuesday, he said the idea of saving money was lost in the RFP and should have been written in a way to look at closing the city shelter but not stopping animal control.
In November, when city staff asked commissioners for feedback on the RFP draft, Commissioner Mary Moe offered suggestions including three criteria that must be met by proposals. During the public meeting, Robinson offered no suggestions, edits or comments about the RFP addressing the closure of the city shelter.
He said during the November meeting that Moe had done a great job with the edits.
During the March 3 meeting, Robinson said he hadn’t read the Maclean’s proposal yet but the thought had been that it would be better if the city got out of animal adoptions and had someone else do it.
Robinson said the RFP should be looked at or negotiated from a perspective of saving money and not on turf.
“We don’t have enough information here,” he said.
Mayor Bob Kelly said they’d suspend discussion and bring it back later to allow more time to digest the proposal and discuss.
During public comment at the March 3 work session, Pam Hendrickson said “how many times now has Maclean tried to get the city to pay its bills.”
Pam Volk, with Maclean, said a partnership could allow the city to spend time and resources that are currently spent on the shelter on other community needs.
“We exist to meet a community need. We are here to help,” Volk said.