City shows interest in joining animal shelter group

City officials say current county shelter operated by Yolo County Sheriff’s Department doesn’t adequately meet needs of Winters residents
A rendering of what a new Yolo County Animal Shelter may look like. Image: Indigo Architects/Handout

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exploring the potential formation of an animal shelter Joint Powers Agreement (JPA), which could lead to both the development of a new animal shelter and improvements to animal services in Winters and other communities. The exploratory group stemmed from a 2013 U.C. Davis report commissioned by the Sacramento Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) that found the 1970s-era county animal shelter in Woodland operated by the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department was “inadequate, outdated and compromises the…ability to adequately serve the community.” At the city council meeting, City Manager John Donlevy said he didn’t think ill of the members of the Sheriff’s Department who operated the current shelter program, but that the current model is too expensive and doesn’t adequately address the needs of the city. “No disparagement at all to the men and women who work there — they do their best — but they’re expensive employees,” Donlevy said, citing the pension costs associated with sheriff’s employees who run the shelter and other service costs. Those service costs increased last year by nearly $24,000, a 25 percent year-over-year increase, Donlevy said, adding that “there are ways to reduce the amount we pay.” But not under the current model: Communities like Winters get a bill for services rendered, even if those services aren’t adequate for the city’s residents. Donlevy noted that for nearly two decades, Winters has never had a spay-neuter clinic, despite the city’s best efforts. “We pay, and I will tell you that over the years, the Sheriff has said, if you don’t like it, go find another option,” Donlevy said. For the last few years, some communities have started looking at other options. Following the 2013 study, a handful of people have considered the idea of forming a JPA that would oversee a new animal shelter located somewhere in the county. In theory, under the JPA, each community who invested in the creation of the animal shelter and associated services would be able to express what services would best be rendered for their city’s residents. Lisa Gaynes, the Director of animal welfare group Unleashing the Possibilities and a proponent of the JPA proposal, said part of the process would be polling city residents to find out what services are needed because “what we need is probably different from what Davis and Woodland needs.” “Education is wonderful, we need a new building, but we need services, we need spay-neuter services, we need a way to deal with the problems we have now,” Gaynes said. “Animal control is incapable of getting physically to the places where we need services.” Gaynes added that there were plenty of passionate people in support of the shelter and services proposal, but that what the group really needed were experts who had been involved in similar projects. “We’re not the only rural area (in the state) where the county is very large and serving the entire population,” Gaynes said. “There are other templates that we can follow and how we spend our money to do that.” How much money it would take to get a new animal shelter going is something that the JPA would explore. There are a handful of different options on the table, including one that would repurpose a fire station in Woodland and another that would create a new 28,000-square feet shelter based on a design presented by Indigo Architects to the Yolo County Board of Supervisors last year. Those plans come with a potential price tag between $15 million and $24 million, though some of that would be offset by private fundraising; Unleashing the Possibilities recently said it might be able to put as much as $8 million into the project. City officials agree that the costs associated with developing and managing a new animal shelter would be worth it given the increased attention on the service needs of city residents. There is some evidence that forming a JPA yields better services: After Stanislaus County formed its animal shelter JPA in 2010, the county expanded canvassing for its cat licensing program. The increased canvassing caused the amount of at licenses in the city to nearly triple between December 2010 and February 2011, according to figures made available by the city. At the end of the discussion, the city council voted unanimously to move forward with an interest in creating the JPA. They won’t be at the table alone: Last month, Yolo County and the city of Davis expressed interest in the JPA, too.]]>

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