Clark County likely to reach deal on housing strays

Commissioners realize that Humane Society is only option

By Erik Hidle, Columbian staff writer

Published:

 

Clark County Commissioners seem to realize they have no other options than to agree to terms on a contract with the Humane Society for Southwest Washington.

Last month, the county was given an Oct. 1 deadline by the Humane Society to agree to a two-year contract to house county strays.

Toward the end of a nearly hourlong debate, Mielke said he believed the Humane Society held the upper hand.

"I think we're limited to what we can do in our negotiations," Mielke said.

Mielke then asked Madore, who has long voiced multiple issues about the contract, if he recognized the deadline. Madore responded, "yes," and from there commissioners began to work on a timeline to agree to a contract.

Stacey Graham, president and executive director of the Humane Society's local chapter, said the society would accept a letter of intent in lieu of a contract as the county continues to work out specifics.

A draft of that letter is expected to come back to commissioners at next week's board time.

And while the matter has been debated since March, the truth is there is no obvious alternative to the Humane Society for housing stray animals the county picks up, a legal requirement mandated by the state. There is no other properly sized facility operating such services in the area, and a county cost analysis on building and operating a shelter of its own as an alternative came back north of $1 million a year in operating costs alone.

In March, the Humane Society requested the county boost its payment to $132.50 per animal in 2013, and to $145 per animal in 2014.

For years, the county has paid the Humane Society less than what the organization says it costs to house animals. In 2012, the county paid $120 per animal, or a total of $265,000 on the year.

But before the March vote, Madore said he wanted to see more information on salaries at the organization.

After a month of debate on the issue, the Humane Society eventually agreed to a 1-year contract paying $132.50 per animal, which was approved by Commissioners Tom Mielke and Steve Stuart as a compromise.

In May, the Humane Society staff and board members explained its financial situation to commissioners during a workshop. But that meeting yielded little progress in the way of contract talks.

The Humane Society then sent a letter to commissioners in July asking for $170 per animal in 2014 and $200 in 2015. The $200 mark is cited as the actual cost of service in 2013.

Erik Hidle: 360-735-4547; http://twitter.com/col_clarkgov; erik.hidle@columbian.com