New Port Richey City Council members wanted to end in spring the city’s animal control service contract with Pasco County.
But it looks like the city will be tethered to the county animal control program for the rest of the fiscal year.
Daniel Johnson, assistant county administrator for public services, is recommending to the Pasco County Commission that the city not be let out of its contract April 1.
“I cannot absorb their financial burden, and I don’t believe their plan at this time is viable,” Johnson said to Patch Wednesday.
The vote was a step forward in pursuit of a proposed private-public program that would provide animal control services within the city limits to New Port Richey residents. The initial proposal for the program suggests the program taps volunteers and veterinarians.
Johnson said the county staff is willing to “assist” the city in a transition to end its contract by the start of the new budget year, which is Oct. 1.
"I wish them luck in doing that," he said. "But I don't believe it's realistic."
City officials were agreeable to moving toward ending the contract when the current fiscal year concludes.
After the City Council discussed Johnson’s recommendation at its regular meeting Tuesday, City Manager John Schneiger said, “Our best approach is to work with the county.”
The contract with the county cost the city just under $60,000 in fiscal year 2011, according to the city. That number has been quoted by a proposed plan to rise to nearly $75,000 in fiscal year 2012.
Johnson said he heard about the city’s proposal to get out of its contract with the county weeks ago. He said he feels there is incorrect and missing information in the plan.
Essentially, “We don’t know at this point in time what their plans are,” he said.
Johnson’s concerned about the consequences, especially the possibility of ramifications to the county.
He said the county has also accounted for revenue from its animal control contracts with municipalities. Loss of the contract "could result in a layoff of an employee," he said.
Some Council members expressed frustration with the development.
"It's a shame when we're ready to go, and the county isn't," councilwoman Ginny Miller said.
She expressed that the county reasoning was because of "the money."
A final plan for the program the city could implement after ending the contract with the county has not been crafted or formally discussed or voted on. Neither have the ordinance changes that might be required.
A proposed plan presented in September suggests using volunteers to assist .
The plan would cost $57,000 in its first year due to start up costs. Future annual savings could amount to $26,000, according to city officials.
The initial proposal for the city program suggests having volunteers go out and retrieve stray dogs in the city. It also suggested involving local veterinarians to provide services at a discount to residents and required animal licenses for dogs and cats.
In addition, it suggested plans for controlling the feral cat population, but it’s looking now like cats wouldn’t be part of the program in its first year.
The has expressed interest in involvement. After looking at other locations, it’s looking like the city police department could be a host to kennels, police Chief James Steffens said.
Before the current agreement with the county, the city contracted out its animal control services to the but the deal was discontinued in 2008.
The county operates an open shelter. Johnson expressed concern that when animals were kept in SPCA kennels, they filled up, and animals were brought to the county.
Johnson said that New Port Richey and other municipalities in contracts with the county pay for county animal services via the half-cent sales tax, not property tax.
“If the city is not contracting with us, we are not obligated to accept pets from city residents,” he said.