Friday, May 21, 2010

Bellevue approves shelter contract

Future funding for service not so certain

Express Staff Writer

The city of Bellevue has approved a stray-animal impound contract with the Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley. Shown from left are Morris, shelter employee Ben Stephenson, Flint, and shelter Operations Manager Nadia Novik. Flint was brought to the shelter from the streets of Bellevue. Photo by David N. Seelig

After several years of discussion, the city of Bellevue has approved a stray-animal impound contract with the Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley.

The City Council approved the contract on Thursday, May 13. It provides a $2,000 flat fee for impound services for 2010.

Whether the city will continue with the service in 2011 has not been determined, City Administrator Tom Blanchard said.

"This is a new expense to the city of Bellevue," he said. "We need this service, but we've got to consider our budget. Revenues are lower than expected and next year needs to be discussed."

Shelter Executive Director Jo-Anne Dixon said the shelter has been seeking a contract with Bellevue, similar to those it has with other municipalities in Blaine County, for several years.

The cities of Ketchum and Sun Valley each pay $2,000 annually for impound services, while the contract with Hailey is for $16,000 and with Blaine County for $24,000.

Dixon said contract amounts are based on the number of animals historically brought to the Hailey-area shelter from the various municipalities. She said a higher number of animals come to shelter from Bellevue than from Ketchum and Sun Valley and a higher fee will be discussed with Bellevue for 2011.

She said 74 animals were brought to the shelter from Bellevue in 2009 and 37 of them were never claimed.

The contract pays for fees incurred for the care and housing of a stray animal during the legally required five business days impound period. After five days, if no one claims an animal, it becomes shelter property and available for adoption.

Without a contract, the city was billed by the shelter $20 per dog and $12 per cat, per day. Dixon said the city, however, was reticent to pay for stray animals brought in by citizens and not by a police officer and only paid $840 in 2009 when impound costs for Bellevue animals were actually closer to $5,000.

With the new contract, Dixon said, "there's no more back and forth—will we pay for this one, will we pay for that one?"

"For a long time, Bellevue was perceived as not pulling their weight," Dixon said. "Their previous city leadership was not willing to enter into a contract for the impound services the shelter has been providing, but their current city leadership has been great. They've really stepped up to the plate."

Blanchard said he's suspicious that some of the stray animals found in Bellevue were brought there from somewhere else.

"We are at risk for that, and Bellevue's the closest place when you drive into the valley," he said.

Blaine County has an animal-friendly reputation and the animal shelter has a no-kill policy, unlike typical impound facilities elsewhere in Idaho.

The shelter has an average population of 45 dogs and 45 cats. It is a nonprofit organization and is funded 90 percent by private donations.

Terry Smith:

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