Low Turnout for Animal Control Task Force

Only two of 11 Washtenaw County commissioners – board chair Conan Smith and Barbara Bergman – showed up for a Wednesday morning policy task force meeting on animal control issues, so the meeting was canceled. Smith had convened the meeting as the first of six for commissioners to discuss a range of policy issues, including identifying the county’s state-mandated animal control services, selecting the non-mandated services the board would like to offer, and identifying the revenue sources available to fund those services.

It’s part of a broader process that began last year when the county board – as part of developing the 2012-2013 budget – decided to cut funding for animal control services, which it has handled through a contract with the Humane Society of Huron Valley (HSHV). A current contract with the HSHV expires at the end of 2012, and the county plans to issue a request for proposals (RFP) later this year to solicit bids for the next contract.

At its Feb. 15 meeting, the county board passed a resolution creating two entities – a policy task force and a work group –  to work through issues related to animal control services. The work group, led by sheriff Jerry Clayton, is tasked with developing a methodology to determine the cost of providing animal control services. The work group includes representatives from HSHV, the county, and other municipalities that have animal control ordinances.

The task force was created for county commissioners to develop a policy that would guide the work group. Commissioners had set a May 15 deadline for an initial report from the task force, but it now seems unlikely that they’ll meet that goal. Smith had set a schedule for the task force sessions at the last board meeting, on May 2. He now says he plans to call each commissioner individually to find out why they couldn’t attend Wednesday’s meeting, and based on those conversations they’ll determine how to proceed. He said it’d unlikely another task force meeting will be scheduled prior to the next board meeting on Wednesday, May 16.

In addition to board task force members Smith and Bergman, about 10 others appeared for the Wednesday morning meeting, including three members of the Ann Arbor-based Dispute Resolution Center, who had been asked to facilitate the discussion. Also present were three people affiliated with the Humane Society of Huron Valley, and deputy county clerk Peter Simms.

Five other meeting dates had been scheduled for the policy task force, all on Wednesdays from 8-10 a.m. at the county’s Learning Resource Center, 4135 Washtenaw Ave.: May 9, May 23, June 13, July 25, Aug. 22 and Sept. 12.