City officials say two-year deal reached
By RAY HUARD - firstname.lastname@example.org North County Times - Californian
Posted: Wednesday, September 29, 2010 6:51 pm
Weeks after the San Diego Humane Society said it would not renew its contract to provide animal control services in Oceanside, the agency has reversed its decision and has reached a tentative two-year agreement with the city, City Manager Peter Weiss said Wednesday.
A Humane Society spokeswoman said she couldn't confirm whether or not a deal had been reached, but Weiss said he hoped to have a firm proposal ready for City Council approval Oct. 20.
"They provide a service that is very, very difficult to duplicate," Weiss said.
Earlier this month, the Humane Society put city officials on notice that it would not renew its animal control contract when it expires Oct. 31. The society's action left the city with no way to pick up and care for stray animals after October, although Humane Society President Mark Goldstein offered to work with the city during a six-month transition period.
Goldstein wasn't available for comment Wednesday, Humane Society spokeswoman Candice Eley said. She said she was unable to confirm that the society had reached an agreement to extend animal control services in Oceanside beyond October.
"We're continuing discussions on how we can work best with the city," Eley said.
City Council members Jerry Kern, Charles "Chuck" Lowery and Esther Sanchez said a two-year deal will give the city time to figure out how handle animal control over the longer term.
The announcement earlier this month that the agency was dropping its contract with Oceanside caught city officials off guard.
Weiss said Wednesday he thought the two sides "were at the point where we had an agreement" until the Humane Society did a turnabout and made its announcement that it wouldn't renew the contract.
Soon after the announcement, Weiss said the city resumed talks with Goldstein and hammered out a tentative two-year agreement under which the society will provide animal control services for the same fee it now charges the city ---- $788,670 a year.
Lowery said he was "pleased and relieved" by the Humane Society's apparent change of heart.
"What's happened sounds to me like the Humane Society has decided to give us some breathing room and we will have to use that breathing room to come up with a long term solution," Lowery said. "If we have to look at alternatives, let's get started."
Weiss and Kern said they would prefer to stay on long term with the Humane Society. although Weiss said Oceanside is talking with neighboring cities to see if it would make sense for them to join together to establish a regional animal control program.
"They (Humane Society) have the ability, they have the facility, they have the trucks, they have the trained people to do it," Kern said. "I think that would be best for all the animals in Oceanside."
Sanchez, who has been critical of the San Diego Humane Society since it absorbed the North County Humane Society in January, said sticking with the Humane Society for another two years was "not the ideal situation."
"I'm not too optimistic about the Humane Society but I understand the need for a transition," Sanchez said. "I believe we can do better and our community is basically demanding that we do better."
Sanchez earlier this month said the Humane Society should return to the city the San Luis Rey Road building it uses as its north campus if the society wasn't going to continue its animal control services. The city deeded the property to the North County Humane Society in 1963 on condition that the society maintain it as an animal shelter.
Now, Sanchez said she wants to create a blue ribbon committee that would include former Humane Society volunteers and veterinarians to develop a plan for long term animal control services. She said the city could form a foundation to raise money to pay for the program. "I'm very hopeful that our citizens can step up and help us establish a much better program," Sanchez said.
Sanchez said that if the city does get into the animal control business, it also should also develop a spay/neuter program to reduce the number of stray animals on the streets.
The San Diego Humane Society had never provided animal control services but inherited the job in Oceanside and Vista when it took over the North County Humane Society.
Call staff writer Ray Huard at 760-901-4062