Wednesday, Sept. 13

City hears county request for help with animal control facility          Send a link to a friend

[SEPT. 13, 2006]  The city of Lincoln invited Logan County Animal Control chairman Vickie Hasprey to present information to the city sanitation committee members on Tuesday. The request followed a proposed increase of the animal control contract fee to $23,029.25 per year.

Hasprey said that the Lincoln fee has not been raised in 10 years. It has been the same since 1996. At that time the county asked to incorporate a 5 percent increase for future contracts, but Mayor Joan Ritter declined. The current city contract is through November 2007.

Hasprey reviewed the current condition of the facility, staffing changes and some upcoming additional costs. She reviewed records beginning in 1985, when the county took over the facility from the humane society. She said that the city did not start at the fee level hoped for and has not kept up with cost increases over the years. Initially the county hoped to get $24,190 a year from Lincoln, but the agreement with the city began at $20,000.

Expenditures at the facility have gone up each year, starting at $76,000 and increasing to this year budgeted at $126,000, Hasprey said.

The current fiscal year was budgeted at $96,300 in revenues and $126,000 in expenditures, leaving a $29,700 shortfall. 2006-2007 is being budgeted the same.

Last year's audit has not been returned yet, but the last actual figures available are from 2003-2004, a high year, showing total expenditures at $146,000 and a shortfall of $28,804.

Animal control is not levied in Logan County. Nor does the county put in an amount they will contribute to that line item. Rather, they contribute from the general budget whatever it comes up short, Hasprey said.

The facility has been through several changes this year, including hiring a new veterinarian administrator and a new warden. They're doing a great job of managing the facility, getting costs down and making things run smoother, Hasprey said.

She said that there were two things prompting the proposed increase for Lincoln:

  1. The county would like to pro-rate municipal contracts according to usage.
  2. There are several major costs to cover soon.

"We are asking the city for their help," Hasprey said.

The fees are hard on the smaller communities, she said. A second community dropped out last week because they could not afford their $1,300 annual fee.

It was proposed in the county finance committee to consider leveling the fees to communities according to usage. Lincoln's use is 79 percent, Hasprey said.

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The facility is in need of a new truck. The last one, bought used several years ago, was in the shop no less than 10 times last year.

They would also like to improve or replace cages that are 18 years old.

A few years ago, under county animal control chairman Pat O'Neill, the animal control made a number of big improvements, which included fixing up the cages, Alderman Jonie Tibbs said.

City sanitation chair Melody Anderson said that she had looked at the current figures and when she projected them out, it looks as though animal control will not come up short this year and may even have $4,600 excess.

Hasprey left for another meeting but reminded the committee that the county is asking for their help to be able to do some high-cost things this year.

Anderson said her research indicated that in the original agreement, when the county took over from the humane society, the county was going to supply 30 percent and municipalities would each pay 4 percent of the excess costs.

Aldermen Daron Whittaker, Wanda Lee Rohlfs and Marty Neitzel, all sitting side by side, said that they would not agree to commit to the increase without the county first budgeting their portion in a line item. Whittaker said he would not vote for it unless the county shows willingness to budget something for it.

There is currently a legal debate on the issue as well. According to county authorities, the state's attorney has advised them that he interprets the state law to say that they are responsible to pick up dogs running loose in unincorporated areas.

Under contract with the city, the county is obligated to help the city maintain its ordinances, which would mean picking up loose dogs when called. This does not include patrolling, but going out when called, city attorney Bill Bates said.

The city does not have a leash law for cats, so cat control services are not required, though the pound does provide cat traps for rental and does take in drop-offs.

It was also questioned if the county receives any taxes for animal control, in which case city residents would already be paying for service.

Animal control has been a long-running issue that has spurred heated debate in past years. No tempers flared at last night's meeting, but there are still questions about where and how to divide the city and county financial responsibility and how to interpret the state law.

[Jan Youngquist]

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