Bouffiou +Debra George Sean Bouffiou of King County, along with Debra George of CARES at Monday night’s Burien City Council study session.[/caption] By Jack Mayne It was virtually “a pep rally for CARES” at Monday night’s Burien City Council study session, with some Councilmembers ready to vote a new contract immediately, but it was slated for a formal vote at the next regular meeting. Even with a presentation from Regional Animal Services of King County (RASKC), many Burien citizens and an apparent majority of the Council (on May 23) seemed ready to support a new CARES contract. It would cost Burien taxpayers nearly a half million dollars more to switch animal control to King County for 16 months from the August 31 end of the current contract the city has with CARES, or Community Animal Resource and Education Society. The Council faces a decision to renegotiate or extend the CARES contract, negotiate a new one with King County, or drop all animal control service, which is not required under Washington State law. No brainer, slam-dunk The CARES contract expires Aug. 31, and the Council voted against extending the pact until the end of next January. Councilmember Nancy Tosta said she was a strong advocate for CARES and that she intended at the June 6 meeting to ask the Council to retract its earlier move to not extend the organization’s contract to the end of January 2017. She suggested the Council consider a longer-term contract for CARES because it was doing so much for the community. Councilmember Steve Armstrong said the extension “is a no brainer, a slam dunk.” He said he liked the passion that CARES Director Debra George has brought into the organization and that he would support an even longer contract than the proposed two-year pact. “CARES is cool, its Burien,” Armstrong said and noted the King County bid was over $300,000 higher. He said he wanted to extend the CARES contract for three or four years and “get the issue done.” “I have never seen such an overwhelming support for it,” he said. “I don’t understand the opposition.” But Councilmember Wagner said she thought discussions with the county could end with a contract “for less money than we are paying CARES for a high quality service we can depend on.” She said she has seen several cities paying less than the amount the County has proposed, likely because cities are able to negotiate rebates and other financial benefits once they are a member of the county consortium. [caption id="attachment_100102" align="alignleft" width="200"]Krakowiak Mayor Lucy Krakowiak[/caption] Mayor Lucy Krakowiak said she agreed with negotiations for a new contract in 2018 and the costs would be competitive and much less than the current proposal and that she would prefer King County over CARES. Need accurate data Tosta said she wanted to hear of any concerns about CARES from other Councilmembers, and Deputy Mayor Bob Edgar said, “I do have a concern. There has been a history, in my estimation, that we haven’t been getting consistent, accurate data” on how the organization has been run. CARES Director George said she understand the concern but “we give the city what they are asking for,” adding her staff can work with the city to meet the concerns of the Council. Councilmember Austin Bell thanked the county for being at the meeting but “we are lucky to have an organization like CARES.” He said the city may be able to pay CARES more and get additional services “and potentially still be paying less than if we switched to the county.” He suggested extending the contract through the end of the year “at a minimum.” Others supported a 16-month contract, from Aug. 31 to Dec. 31, 2017. Only CARES or County There are no other potential providers of animal services besides the county and CARES and it estimated their cost for 16 months of animal services would be $239,376, with the city retaining all net license fees and all fines of about $73,000 – which brings the CARES net cost to $166,000. King County’s cost of $448,000 for a 16-month contract, before potential rebates are considered, which would not be considered without the endorsement of a majority of other cities that are members of the group using county animal services. [caption id="attachment_100105" align="alignright" width="200"]John Upthegrove John Upthegrove[/caption] “Why are having this conversation?” said resident John Upthegrove, referring to the vast cost difference. Later he suggested the conversation was simply a political one between segments of the Council and urged it be extended through 2018 with a 10 percent raise “to help them out.” Retired entrepreneur John White said King County would “be nice, but we just can’t afford it,” as he urged the Council to extend CARES’ contract. Sean Bouffiou, King County licensing finance administrator, told the Council that the city’s pet license rate of $20 would be increased to the county rate of $30 for altered animals and $50 to $60 for unaltered pets if it were to take over the animal contract from CARES. He also said the county feels it can increase the number of pet licenses issued, thus increasing revenue. [caption id="attachment_100104" align="alignleft" width="200"]Sean Bouffiou Sean Bouffiou of King County[/caption] Bouffiou reiterated that many of the discounts the county is able to return to its member cities are based on actual savings by the wider consortium of cities it serves. Parade of CARES supporters The parade of public speakers at the meeting was hugely on the side of CARES, many suggesting the people running CARES are local residents that “really care.” Frequent Council commenter Ed Dacy said the difference in cost “looks like one police officer … it that your intent, to cut police” to get the money to pay for the county animal control? [caption id="attachment_100106" align="alignright" width="200"]Verna Seal Tukwila Tukwila City Councilmember Verna Seal[/caption] Tukwila City councilmember Verna Seal said her city has contracted the county animal agency for years, but “Burien CARES is an amazing model and you have a gem in your community” then added, “I, personally, would not be adverse to a partnership.” Amy Miller said she has seen CARES built from its start and “the heart and soul that comes with that and the volunteers and the donations and everybody in the community that loves it.” She pointed out the cost differences between the two agencies and why would the county want “the job when CARES is doing such a great job.” Bouffiou, from the county agency, said it was a great question but their participation before the Council was at the behest of the City leadership. “We have a different model than the CARES program, there are different costs involved and it is up to the City of Burien to decide what do you want in your animal services and how do you get there.” It was not the county’s position to leave CARES in a negative position. “It is a matter of choices,” Bouffiou said. Maryann Hudson was against the CARES contract extension. She said it was wrong to call themselves a “no kill” facility because the shelter is full and if an animal is turned away, “you don’t know what will happen to it – it could be killed.” She said she had been at the CARES shelter on Monday and “they were packed to the rafter with cats,” so what would they do if more cats were brought in? To watch the video of Monday’s study session, click here.]]>