Almanac

News - April 9, 2014

Menlo Park: Council requests more data before voting on animal shelter funding

by Sandy Brundage

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.

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