Discussions with Maclean over animal services back on city agenda
Discussions over a proposed partnership between the city and the Maclean Cameron Animal Adoption Center are back on the City Commission agenda for the June 2 meeting.
In March, city staff reviewed their analysis of Maclean’s proposal for animal services in the city.
Maclean representatives were frustrated with that analysis and requested a chance to respond. Maclean representatives submitted a written response to the city in mid-March.
Work sessions were canceled from mid-March through mid-May due to COVID-19 and during the first work session post-pandemic on May 19, Maclean representatives asked for the discussion to be placed back on the agenda.
In a May 5 email to commissioners, City Manager Greg Doyon wrote, “There also appears to be a renewed urgency to address the MCAAC shelter proposal. On March 4, 2020, I emailed the Commission and offered to draft a letter to MCAAC, asking them to provide a complete proposal. Since that time, MCAAC provided a follow-up response on March 12, 2020, clarifying their proposal further. My recommendation is to first proceed with a work session on the topic giving MCAAC an opportunity to visit with the Commission directly – I’ll await your direction. The Commission may be at a point where its feels that MCAAC has provided all the information needed to make a decision, if not, please tell me what you need or how you want to proceed.”
In a May 7 email to commissioners, City Manager Greg Doyon wrote that at the May 19 work session they could discussion when commissioners wanted to scheduled a discussion with Maclean.
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 during the March meeting.
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.
That project is nearing completion.
During that meeting, Maclean representatives said the city misrepresented their proposal.
In their March 12 letter to the city, Maclean Board President Libbey Winderl, and board member John Huber, wrote that under their proposal, the Maclean would assume all responsibility for the intake of owner surrenders, animal adoption and fostering, and education/outreach to the community.
Under the Maclean proposal, they wrote, the city would retain animal control; intake of strays to include 72 to 96 hour hold periods for owner redemption; and cremation services.
In their letter, Winderl and Huber write that the potential closure of the city’s animal shelter is only mentioned in one paragraph of their proposal and if that paragraph was deleted, “all of staff’s concerns and comments about the proposal containing ‘incongruent statements’ are eliminated.”
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.
During the March meeting, 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 Maclean 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.”
In their March 12 letter, Winderl and Huber write that the city provided ample time and financial data for them to develop their proposal.
The foundation’s $475,000 estimate was based on internal and external sources, projected numbers of animals that would be in their care and insight from professionals, according to the letter.
“However, until the foundation submitted its proposal on Feb. 24, 2020, the city could not have known, and did not have an opportunity to calculate, its costs for its retained services under the proposal. Until the city reviews the proposal and determines an estimated budget for its retained services, the foundation is unable to finalize a contract price which will ensure that the city achieves substantial savings,” Winderl and Huber wrote.
In a March 5 email to commissioners, Doyon wrote that he was asking permission from commissioners to draft a letter to MAclean representatives asking what they need to complete a proposal consistent with the commission approved request for proposals.
In his March 5 email, Doyon wrote, “I am strongly opposed to open negotiations with MCAAC without a written proposal on the table. I do not feel that I can properly advise the commission without one. For me, this is about service continuity and cost to the taxpayer. MCAAC is capable of providing good services to the community – I just don’t have a clear picture of exactly what that is because they have set forth new operating conditions.”
Doyon wrote that to help the commission with the discussion and to provide something for them to evaluation, the following information was needed:
- “What is the cost for the City to maintain/fund its statutory obligations for animal control (knowing MCAAC’s conditions – only taking dogs/cats; no strays)?
- What City Code changes would the City Commission consider and approve to reduce either the area it serves or the animals currently accepted by the GFAS?
- What are the detailed costs to the taxpayer for the defined services expected by the Commission in #2 and provided by MCAAC?”