Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Hailey wants to eliminate animal control job

City to negotiate with county to request it provide control services

Express Staff Writer

The city of Hailey has decided to enter into negotiations with Blaine County over the next 60 days to see if it will agree to take over the responsibility and cost of animal control services within the city.

The shift, proposed by Hailey Mayor Susan McBryant at a City Council meeting Monday, could mean the elimination of Hailey's employment of an animal control officer and the turning over to the county of the city's equipment used for that position.

"I think we need to step away from providing these kinds of services," McBryant told the council.

For now, Hailey and Blaine County operate under a joint powers agreement whereby both jurisdictions work in concert to employ an animal control officer. The annual cost for that position—both salary and associated costs—is $55,000, Hailey City Clerk Heather Dawson said Tuesday.

Under its agreement with Hailey, Blaine County pays the city half of the operating costs.

McBryant noted two reasons why the relationship isn't working as well as it once did.

First, the animal control officer only writes about 3 to 4 animal control citations each year, she said. Additionally, growth in the county means the animal control officer is spread out too thin.

The animal control officer may now be far away from Hailey on county-related calls, Hailey Police Chief Brian McNary explained to McBryant and the City Council.

"He can be anywhere from Baker Creek to Carey," McNary said.

The increased need for countywide services has made knowing where the animal control officer is quite difficult, he added.

If the county agrees to the change, the city would transfer to Blaine County at no cost the vehicle uses by the animal control officer as well as any other equipment, McBryant said.

The dual nature of the animal control officer's role with the county and Hailey has become unwieldy, she said. Having the county take over responsibility would streamline the process, she said.

Asked their opinion of the move, the Hailey City Council unanimously agreed the change was a good one.

The only other choice would be to hire a full-time city animal control officer, Council President Rick Davis said.

"I don't think that's the best use of tax dollars," Davis said.

In a related matter, McBryant asked the City Council to agree to forgive a $10,396 debt the Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley owes the city.

"We have the authority to forgive that debt and I suggest we do that," she said.

Located west of Hailey in Croy Canyon, the shelter is a nonprofit, community-based organization.

McBryant also suggested the city pay the animal shelter a flat $16,000 annual payment for the boarding services it provides the city. The payment to the animal shelter would not be a donation, she said.

"It's a contract for services."

In other Hailey news:

· McBryant announced the appointment to the city's Climate Protection Committee of Hailey resident Elizabeth Jeffrey. The purpose of the committee is to reduce the city's impact on global warming through various internal initiatives.

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