Discussions continuing between city, Maclean ongoing for potential animal services partnership
During their Dec. 15 meeting, City Commissioners discussed the proposal from Maclean Cameron Animal Adoption Center again after nearly two years since Commissioner Owen Robinson said he wanted the city to explore a potential partnership between the foundation and the city animal shelter.
The commission has not made any decisions regarding the proposed partnership nor have they directed staff to send the matter to a regular agenda for a vote.
During the Dec. 15 meeting, Robinson said he was recusing himself from the discussion due to his long relationship with Maclean.
For most of the public discussions since early 2019, there have been differences of opinion on operations, services and finances regarding a potential partnership.
Following the work session discussion, City Manager Greg Doyon emailed commissioners with his distillation of their comments and asking if he was on the right track. As of Dec. 21, he said he’d heard from two of the five and those two indicated he was correct in the general direction.
“Here’s an overgeneralization of what I thought I heard:
- The RPP is done, but the discussion is not.
- There is an animal welfare opportunity for both entities that will benefit the community – find it.
- Build trust through communication.
- Potential partnerships (small or large) may or may not involve city funding.
- Find some common ground to build a functional relationship that may lead to larger operational or partnership opportunities.
I have some nontraditional approaches to the above that will require cooperation from MCAAC. Once I confirm the Commission’s thoughts, I’ll reach out to Libbey and outline next steps.”
For much of the discussion, city staff has expressed concerns regarding the foundation’s capacity to take on shelter operations and the foundation has countered that it can take on those operations and save the city money for a contract price of $475,000 annually for the first four years.
Last fall, the city issued a request for proposals for animal operations and received a response from Maclean.
That proposal had been to take over animal adoption services, but leave many other shelter functions to the city. The proposal has since morphed into one in which Maclean would assume all shelter operations from the city.
Deputy City Manager Chuck Anderson said during the Dec. 15 meeting, “how do they justify charging the same fee” for such a difference in proposals. He told City Commissioners that when reviewed holistically, the foundation wasn’t able to demonstrate the ability to do the services, knowledge of how to perform services and cost savings for the city were not achieved.
The city recently completed construction of the new cattery, that was funded with donations, and ordered some cat condos but is still fundraising for the remaining condos needed.
Mayor Bob Kelly asked foundation representatives what they would do with the cattery.
Pam Volk, Maclean’s director, said they’d be open to bringing the cat condos to their facility and possibly reimbursing the city for them.
Commissioner Rick Tryon asked if it had been an assumption all along that the foundation would receive a subsidy from the city or transfer operations to the city.
Volk said that at one point during construction, the plans called for animal control showers but discussions with the city changed so those showers were shifted into storage and staff areas.
John Huber, a Maclean board member, said that he’s done two stints on the board and said that at one point it was his understanding the foundation was working with the city, but “there was no preconceived notion” that the city would jump in.
Some commissioners and Kelly have expressed frustration with the RFP process, which they unanimously approved last year, and is a process used for most city contracts.
Staff has said that while it’s been frustrating to some, it’s allowed for detailed conversation and vetting the Maclean’s proposals before making major changes to city services.
“When we’re transitioning almost a half million dollars to a nonprofit, we want to make sure that it’s vetted, that just seems prudent to me,” Doyon said during the Dec. 15 meeting.
He told commissioner that if they approve Maclean taking over all shelter services, he’ll recommend closing the city shelter and “there’s kind of no going back at that point.”
Doyon said that the portion of the general fund to support shelter operations that the Maclean would take over and whatever savings the city might see would immediately go back into the general fund to support services such as public safety.
If for some reason the arrangement doesn’t work out, Doyon said, it would be very difficult to go back to reopen the shelter.
In a June 2020 memo to commissioners, Doyon proposed a pilot program. Commissioners have taken no formal action on the proposal.
Under the proposal, the city shelter would allocate “a yet to be determined number of cats and dogs” to Maclean for adoption for a two-year pilot program. Initially, it may be excess cats and/or dogs, which exceed a certain number of days or capacity at the the city shelter, according to Doyon’s memo.
Under an agreement, the city shelter will determine and transfer animals until Maclean reaches capacity. The city wouldn’t pay Maclean directly, instead the cost of holding an animal for 72-96 hour requirements and preparing an animal for adoption would be considered an in-kind donation by Maclean.
“The benefit to MCAAC is that the organization will be able to accept and adopt more animals. The benefit to the GFAS is the savings. By reducing animal retention times, there should be savings to the city,” according to Doyon’s memo.
The two-year pilot would allow both entities to determine a process for efficiently moving animals between the two facilities; and before the program starts, the agencies would establish a common set of metrics “that are accurate, east to understand and annually given to the City Commission and MCAAC board,” Doyon wrote. “The data will be helpful in ultimately determining if the community needs to further evaluate its animal welfare needs. Data established will better educate the public, better inform the commission, and guide future conversations in healthier manner.”
Kelly said during the Dec. 15 meeting that he wanted staff and Maclean to further discuss where the strengths are in the possible partnership and costs that would be saved and come back to the commission to move the proposal to a vote.
Commissioner Tracy Houck said the city would like to save money but that they’re 22 months into it, and “we’ve yet to figure out how to save money.”
She said it she didn’t want more lengthy discussions but wanted to start making decisions.
Houck said she’d be in favor of looking into the staff’s recommendation of a no-cost pilot program.
Commissioner Mary Moe said that she thought the staff report was possibly condescending and that the city had expanded its mission at the shelter from a pound to adoptions over the years.
She asked if the commission was willing to continue investing in the expanded mission when there’s an entity nearby that can do the same thing.
Moe said that ultimately she wanted to see Maclean get no funding from the city for adoption services because it’s not the city’s mission and that the goal should be to transfer that mission to Maclean rather than ask them to take over things the city is responsible for.
She said that the staff’s recommended no-cost pilot could be a good option, but that a partnership will require cooperation and “I haven’t seen it.”