$500K Deal with Humane Society OK’d

Taking another step toward addressing a year-long controversy over how much to pay for animal control services, the Washtenaw County board authorized contracting with the Humane Society of Huron Valley for $500,000 annually. The action – a 7-3 vote taken at the board’s Nov. 7, 2012 meeting – enables the administration to contract with HSHV for up to four years, with the option of adjusting the contract for inflation based on changes to taxable value of property in the county. Voting against the resolution were Dan Smith, Wes Prater and Rolland Sizemore Jr. Ronnie Peterson was absent.

The county would not likely pay that entire amount, however. According to a staff memo accompanying the Nov. 7 resolution, county administrator Verna McDaniel has received preliminary commitments from five municipalities that have their own animal control ordinances, and that have agreed to help the offset the cost of the HSHV contract. Those entities are the cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti Township, Pittsfield Township, and Superior Township. The memo states that those local governments have agreed to execute contracts with the county to provide funding for animal control services. The Nov. 7 resolution authorized McDaniel to finalize contracts with each of these local entities. [For additional background, see Chronicle coverage: “Task Force: Negotiate with Humane Society.”]

Several commissioners expressed concern that the county is essentially at the same position as it was when this process began. Wes Prater objected to the fact that the county’s procurement policy wasn’t being followed, because a request for proposals (RFP) wasn’t issued. Leah Gunn and Barbara Bergman indicated that although they weren’t happy with the agreement, they would support the resolution in deference to the hard work of McDaniel fellow commissioner Rob Turner, who took the lead on this issue along with board chair Conan Smith. Ultimately, a sufficient number of commissioners agreed to back the resolution, giving it final approval.

In another move later in the meeting that’s related to animal control services, the board gave initial approval on Oct. 17 to a civil infractions ordinance, giving the county more flexibility to designate violations of other county ordinances as a civil infraction, rather than a criminal misdemeanor. [.pdf of proposed ordinance]

In the context of animal control, enforcement of the county’s dog licensing ordinance is low because the current penalty – a criminal misdemeanor of 90 days in jail or a $500 fine – is relatively harsh. The idea is that enforcement would improve if a lesser civil infraction could be used. The proposed fines would be $50 for a first offense, $100 for a second offense, and $500 for a third or any subsequent offense. An increase in dog licenses would provide additional revenue to be used for animal control services.

Commissioners gave final approval to the civil infractions ordinance at their Nov. 7 meeting, following a public hearing on the item. Only one person – Thomas Partridge – spoke during the hearing. He objected to it.

This brief was filed from the boardroom of the county administration building at 220 N. Main in Ann Arbor. A more detailed report will follow: [link]