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Menlo Park council requests more data before voting on animal shelter funding

Animal control services are important -- no one on the Menlo Park council disputes that -- but what they are disputing is who should provide them to the city and at what cost.

San Mateo County would like to replace the 60-year-old animal-holding facility on Airport Boulevard in San Mateo with a new, smaller one estimated to cost between $15.1 million to $20.2 million. The county contracts with the Peninsula Humane Society for facility operations, and in turn 20 Peninsula cities, including Menlo Park, contract for services.

The county is asking the cities and towns that use the services to agree to contribute towards the cost of the new facility. The agreement would be structured in the form of a lease, with interest-free payments adjusted each year and calculated based on the average frequency of shelter use and the population of each participating jurisdiction.

Woodside, Portola Valley and Atherton have already signed on, with annual contributions in the range of $3,000 to $13,111.

Menlo Park has been tapped to pay $23,728 to $31,769 annually for up to 30 years. That would be in addition to the $260,029 already set aside in the city's budget for animal control services.

But during its April 1 meeting, the Menlo Park council decided it needed more information before voting on the agreement.

Vice Mayor Catherine Carlton said she was "deeply unhappy" that data requested prior to the meeting was slow to materialize, using a report dated 2009 that had been delivered to the council the morning of the April 1 meeting as an example.

She asked whether Menlo Park, which may use the facility less frequently than some other jurisdictions, was paying more than smaller municipalities that use it more often. And would the $50,000 annual maintenance fee shared by participating jurisdictions for the current facility continue once the new shelter was built?

Those were not the only questions raised during the evening's discussion. "Why not look at Santa Clara (to provide services instead)?" Councilwoman Kirsten Keith asked, with Ms. Carlton expressing agreement. Part of the appeal is that Santa Clara County has facilities much closer to Menlo Park.

The Peninsula Humane Society, according to the staff report, is reluctant to renew its San Mateo County service contract, which expires in 2015, unless a plan is in place to address the shortcomings of the current dilapidated facility. The county's timeline indicates that construction of the new shelter is expected to start in July, and be completed within 18 months.

In the end the council unanimously agreed to table the discussion until a meeting later this month to allow the county to return with more information.

Comments

Posted by concerned, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 9, 2014 at 12:51 pm

Wasn't a new facility built within the last few years? I don't think the city should commit to this; the city is already in financial trouble. If Santa Clara is closer, we should contract with their facility


Posted by ImConcerned, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 9, 2014 at 2:05 pm

I'm concerned that you think the city is in financial trouble. The city has nearly a 50% budget reserve. Best practices dictate 20-25% should be the goal. Menlo Park is doing great! In regards to a Santa Clara shelter...Great! What about the animal care service provider?!?! Service and facility are very much reliant on each other. San Mateo Co. Will not provide the service and ship the animals to Santa Clara. That would be a complete change in the City's existing policy... Maybe a good idea? Maybe-- but that needs lots of consideration.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of another community
on Apr 9, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Why do you think that the Santa Clara Co place is closer? They use the Milpitas facility, don't they?


Posted by Older mom, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 9, 2014 at 8:47 pm

The Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA is a non-profit whose aim is to find a home for all healthy animals without one. It neuters animals it adopts out, provides low cost neutering and vaccinations for those who cannot afford a private vet to help keep animals in the home they have. It also provides medical care for animals needing it. For many years they were at a facility near the airport which was not only old but unfriendly to potential adopters - many animals in a single cage all attempting to get attention from those walking by.

A fund raising drive was held and a new facility was opened on so far as I know no government money was used at the new center on Rollins Drive. However, the old facility (owned by the county) is still used for services mostly related to animal control. PHS&SPCA has indicated to the county they don't want to sign another contract until that facility is replaced. To see functions provided at each facility use link Web Link


Posted by Uh-oh, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Apr 10, 2014 at 2:19 pm

Imaconcerned makes a great point. Why does the City of Menlo Park hold a 50% reserve fund when best practices dictate 20-25%. That is TENS OF MILLIONS of dollars that could be used to provide other services or given back to the taxpayers.

Thats the real story. It would be great for the Alamanac to ask City Leaders about this issue. It needs to come to light.


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