City of Bakersfield to operate own animal shelter

City of Bakersfield to operate own animal shelter

City officials say their current one-year operational/lease agreement with the County of Kern is set to expire September 30, 2013.
BAKERSFIELD, CA -- Bakersfield city officials say their current one-year operational/lease agreement with the
County of Kern for the sheltering of stray and otherwise unwanted City animals expires on September 30, 2013.

On May 3, 2013 the City provided the County with a written draft of a two-year Interim Animal Shelter Agreement. This draft agreement came as a result of the mutually agreed upon direction developed by the City and County through multiple meetings of the Metro Bakersfield Animal Control Committee, the last of which was
held on March 13, 2013.

As of this date, over 100 days have come and gone, and the City has yet to receive the County’s proposed revisions to the draft agreement, which was provided on May 3, 2013.

The County’s continued lack of responsiveness, cooperation and courtesy, coupled with the City’s misgivings about the level of care and service being provided by the Kern County Animal Shelter have forced the City to take action.

The City of Bakersfield has decided to separate from the County of Kern and operate its own animal care facility to provide appropriate shelter and care for the stray and otherwise unwanted animals from the City of Bakersfield.

As such, the City has provided official notice to the County that their lease and the operational agreement between the City and the County expire on September 30, 2013, thus requiring the County to vacate the current shelter by the
close of business on September 30, 2013

The City understands that the County may desire to continue its operations at the Mt. Vernon shelter past September 30, and, to accommodate that circumstance, the City has provided the County with an option to remain at the Mt. Vernon location through December 1, 2013, to allow time for the necessary transition of the facility.

The City is currently in the process of developing partnerships with the Bakersfield SPCA and Bakersfield Homeless Center to facilitate the City’s new shelter operations. As such, City staff expects to bring forward in September new agreements with the SPCA and Homeless Center for Council approval.

While some may view this action as an unfortunate result of the County’s inactions, the City views this as a great opportunity to forge a new model focused on improving the care and ultimate outcome of stray and otherwise unwanted animals in the City of Bakersfield.

The following is a response from the County of Kern:

At 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday August 21, 2013, the City of Bakersfield notified the County of Kern that the County must vacate the Animal Control Shelter on Mount Vernon Avenue by October 1, 2013. The City's action gives the County only 40 days to move the shelter's entire population of nearly 700 dogs, cats and livestock to a different location.

Second District County Supervisor Zack Scrivner said the City's unilateral action comes without warning and despite a July 31 verbal accord between the City and the County on a plan for a new Animal Shelter. Scrivner said the City's claim that the County has been unresponsive and uncooperative on animal control issues is completely at odds with the facts.
"Just three weeks ago, Supervisor Maggard and I met with City Manager Alan Tandy and his staff and we jointly came up with a tentative two-year plan to move forward on the development of a new Animal Control Shelter," Supervisor Scrivner said. "A week after that, Alan Tandy communicated his thanks to County Administrative Officer John Nilon for putting County staff to work on our mutually agreed solution."

"Yet today, without any public input in any public setting, let alone a proper City Council meeting, and without a single phone call to any of us, including County Supervisors or County staff, the City gave the County a 40-day eviction notice," Scrivner said. "I'm shocked and disappointed in the behavior of the City Council."

Jen Woodard, Director of Kern County Animal Control, said, "I'm very concerned about the welfare of the animals in the County's care. Right now, we're trying to figure out how we can move 700 animals in 40 days to a new place where they will be safe, secure, and healthy."

Supervisor Scrivner said he suspects the City's abrupt termination of the animal control agreement may stem from a July 29 letter that appointed County Auditor-Controller Mary Bedard issued to the City of Bakersfield regarding the State Controller's audit staff comments confirming that the County is correct in its recent recalculations of the historical tax-split agreement. The agreement is the subject of a City lawsuit against the County. Scrivner stressed that Ms. Bedard has sole legal authority to correct and adjust tax allocations and that no other County officials have input in her
decisions.

"Every attempt by the County to propose holding the City virtually harmless on historical tax split calculations has been universally and unequivocally rejected by the City," Scrivner said. "Apparently, the City Council's strategy is to hold innocent animals hostage in negotiations regarding the appropriate sharing of tax dollars."

John Nilon
County Administrative Officer

Board of Supervisors Chairman Mike Maggard was equally concerned. "We recently had a very productive meeting with city staff on the shelter agreement, and it is unspeakably troubling to see all of that washed away by the City Council in a knee-jerk reaction to a completely different matter," Supervisor Maggard said. "At the end of our recent meeting with the City Manager, we were very hopeful that real progress was being made on the Animal Control Shelter. It's unfortunate that the City Council would disrupt this progress, but it is even more troubling that the City Council has reached a new low by endangering animals for political ends."

Fourth District County Supervisor David Couch said, "I'm really surprised by today's announcement. I've always been optimistic that the City and the County would work something out. In fact, I felt that recently, both sides were taking positive steps toward a mutually acceptable agreement. I hope we can pick up the pieces and reactivate discussions with the City because a joint facility is best for the people of Kern County."
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