Washtenaw County approves $500K for contract with Humane Society of Huron Valley
The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners approved the negotiation of a $500,000 contract with the Humane Society of Huron Valley at its Ways and Means meeting Wednesday night as an end of an investigation into the costs and requirements for animal control services.
The exact details of what would be provided under that contract weren’t included in the resolution that was approved.
Additionally, the final four-year contract that County Administrator Verna McDaniel works out with the Humane Society will not come before the county board for approval, although McDaniel said she will make sure the commissioners receive a copy in advance of its finalization.
The resolution also included language for the administrator to negotiate separate contracts with each of the five municipalities that have their own ordinances regarding animal control policies to get them to pay up for a portion of the cost of the service. Those municipalities include Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti Township, Pittsfield Township and Superior Township - and Pittsfield Township has already allocated $18,000 for 2013 for its share at the request of McDaniel.
Though the board voted 7-3 to pass the resolution, several commissioners were intensely critical of the way the matter was coming before them at the second to the last Ways and Means meeting of the board this term. Commissioners Dan Smith, Rolland Sizemore Jr. and Wesley Prater voted against the resolution, and Ronnie Peterson was absent.
“This has been a very gnarly problem for all of us,” said Commissioner Leah Gunn, D-Ann Arbor. “I will be voting for it reluctantly. One of the things that has vexed me is the Humane Society has never come up with a figure for how much it costs per day to house dogs, and how much we are responsible for. We are not responsible for people’s pets.”
Commissioner Rob Turner, R-Chelsea, who has worked with the Animal Control Task Force and the Humane Society to come up with an animal control policy recommendation for the county, said that the rate to house stray dogs is about $38 per day.
Commissioner Dan Smith, R- Northfield Township, said he was bothered by the process as well.
“We’re at the same $500,000 price that we were a year ago. Absolutely no progress has been made,” Smith said.
For $38 per day, Smith extrapolated that it would mean a dog could get a nice apartment in Ann Arbor for about $1,100 per month - or if two dogs pooled their resources, they could get a fairly nice hotel room for the night.
“I wish we had come to something better at this point. This seems like we’ll be putting the problem away for four years,” Smith said.
The county is mandated by the state to house stray dogs and dogs involved in cruelty investigations.
The issue arose about two yeas ago when commissioners wanted to know if the amount they paid to the Humane Society annually was actually what they should be paying to cover the mandated services by the state - sparked by an attempt to reduce the county’s contribution to the Humane Society from $500,000 to about $265,000.
The reduction was not met with a positive reaction from the Humane Society, and the county approved a last-minute funding change to $415,000 for the 2012 year.
Commissioners haggled over several minor amendments to the proposed resolution that was brought before them Wednesday night - and at some points Ways and Means meeting Chairman Rolland Sizemore Jr., D-Ypsilanti Township, had to continually seek guidance as to what the board members were voting on.
“As a commissioner I support the Humane Society. As an individual, I have not been happy with this,” said Commissioner Barbara Levin Bergman, D-Ann Arbor, instructing McDaniel to negotiate a contract quickly as to not waste any additional staff hours on its determination.
Bergman said she’ll be shifting her charitable donations to the Humane Society to only fund food for the animals they care for.
Commissioner Wesley Prater, D-York Township, said he was concerned by the process by which the contract negotiations were approved without submitting a request for proposals for the service, an act Prater said violates the county’s policy.
“Is that the kind of organization we’re going to run in a lame duck period?” Prater said.
The Humane Society of Huron Valley is the only viable provider for animal control services in Washtenaw County - a fact that corporation counsel Curtis Hedger said meant that a request for proposals for the service was deemed to be not necessary by the county administrator.
“I will not support this,” said Commissioner Sizemore. “I’m not in favor of the county doing the contract and not having the contract come back to this board. I have a real problem with the Humane Society You’re trying to tell me I have to go into negotiations with unions and tell them to cut but we’re going to give the HSHV whatever they want?”
One of the major problems the board has been having with the entire animal control issue is that it’s one of the few mandated services that the county has a contract with a third party for, Smith said.
Commissioner Alicia Ping, R-Saline, disagreed with the majority opinion on the board that the process was done poorly.
“I don’t think it was a waste of anybody’s time to go through this,” Ping said. “The intent was never to say, ‘Can we get these services for less money;’ it was to see how much the cost is I feel like we’re in a good place and we finally have the information we need.”