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Posted: Tuesday, July 16, 2002 12:00 am

City looks to take over animal shelter

Not on board: Humane Society official against proposal.

BY JENNIFER MUIR

The Brownsville Herald

Management of the Brownsville Animal Shelter may soon swap hands as the city

looks to ease a tight budget, a measure that the current management calls a

step backward for Brownsville.

The Lower Valley Humane Society, the nonprofit organization that currently

manages the facility, may be forced to relinquish control of the shelter to

the Department of Public Health after an open discussion of the citys

cost-cutting proposal. The proposal, which is scheduled for public discussion

at todays city commission meeting, claims it can run the shelter for as much

as $50,000 less than LVHS has requested for next year.

We would like to keep LVHS, but the mayor has already asked us to cut costs

10 percent across the board and has frozen overtime, Public Health Director

Josue Ramirez said.

The Lower Valley Humane Society has had a yearly renewable contract with the

Department of Public Health to manage the shelter since 1998, when it assumed

responsibility free of charge. Since then, LVHS has submitted a budget to the

Public Health Department for expenses related to managing the facility, a

budget that has increased yearly.

The idea of the city taking back management is utterly appalling, LVHS

President Gail Goodman said. The place was a hell hole when we took it over,

and there is no reason to believe they would do a different a job the next

time around.

This year, LVHS was allotted $90,000, but is asking for another $10,000 to

meet a shortfall of funds. If the city renews their contract next year, the

organization has anticipated needing $140,000 to cover costs that Goodman says

LVHS has been partially paying from their own budget.

I dont think there is a question of whether or not the Department of Public

Health can handle it, City Commissioner Eddie Trevio said. It is about what

makes the best economical sense for the city.

The departments proposal includes three funding options for the city

commission to consider ranging from $87,138.95 to $130.313.90 to staff five

animal care technicians.

The proposal does not, however, indicate other expenditures relating to

facility maintenance and supplies, which Goodman claims are where a large part

of the managerial expenses lie.

Ramirez, however, does not anticipate incidental expenses to total more than

$5,000, and maintains the quality of service will be the same.

If the commission decides this is the best plan of action, the first people

we would consider for the positions would be the ones who are already there,

Ramirez said.

Goodman, however, does not believe the Department of Public Health can run the

shelter without the donations LVHS receives as a nonprofit organization, such

as volunteer hours, supplies and advertising costs.

She estimates LVHS has given the shelter approximately $112,000 in donated

goods and services this year.

I do not think it is possible economically for the city to run the shelter

for less than what we are doing, she said.

She is also concerned about the quality of service with a staff of only five

people in a depressing environment where 90 percent of the animals are

euthanized.

It is important for a shelter to be associated with a non-profit and with a

staff who deeply cares about their work, she said.

City officials and Ramirez hope that whatever the city decides after Tuesdays

meeting, there will continue to be a strong partnership between the LVHS and

the animal shelter.

Theyve done a wonderful job over the last few years, and I hope they would

continue to work closely with the shelter if the department of public health

assumes control, Trevio said.

Goodman, however, does not anticipate the working relationship would be the

same.

I dont really think we would be onsite doing anything anymore, she said.

We would continue to do things out in the community.

The city also needs to be thinking about what it is going to cost to run the

new shelter, so the idea that they are balking at what it costs to run the old

place is appalling.

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