City Commission Meeting Tomorrow

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Tomorrow (Tuesday) the City Commission will meet at 7:00 pm. On the agenda is the hot-button topic of the animal shelter and the Humane Society of Cascade County, which GeeGuy has been discussing (here, here, here).
Also on the agenda – unofficially and certainly not on paper – is the 3-minute rule, which rule sparked the eviction of Susan Overfield at the last meeting.

By the way, I’ve moderated my opinion of the incident – I think that both Mayor Dona AND Susan Overfield should apologize: to each other, to the City Commission, and to the other folks who attended the meeting. I know that they are both passionate about animals and doing what they believe is best for the animals AND the city, but they both should have been able to maintain civility and not escalate the situation.

Me, I’m not smart enough to understand all of the issues involved in the animal control/HSCC kerfuffle. Apparently this situation has been brewing for a while and just became “public” within the last couple of weeks. My default position is that the City should usually maintain a “less is more” management style, but there sure does seem to be a lot of concern over the quality of the shelter. Should the City take over the shelter? I don’t know. But a healthy debate about the issues is probably long overdue.

Here’s a link to the full agenda for the meeting, and presented below is the full text of the agenda items to “AUTHORIZE CITY MANAGER TO TAKE NECESSARY STEPS WITH REGARD TO ANIMAL CONTROL ENFORCEMENT AND SHELTER OPERATIONS” — read it here instead of clicking on the city’s .pdf link (pdf’s are a big pet peeve of mine):

CITY OF GREAT FALLS, MONTANA Agenda # 5A
AGENDA REPORT DATE July 3, 2007
ITEM: AUTHORIZE CITY MANAGER TO TAKE NECESSARY STEPS WITH REGARD TO ANIMAL CONTROL ENFORCEMENT AND SHELTER OPERATIONS INITIATED BY CITY MANAGER
ACTION REQUESTED: APPROVE AUTHORIZATION
PRESENTED BY: JOHN LAWTON, CITY MANAGER

RECOMMENDATION: Staff recommends the City Commission consider the following motion:
MOTION: I move the City Commission authorize the City Manager to take all steps necessary for the City to assume direct responsibility for animal control, enforcement and shelter operations for an interim period and to work with animal welfare groups and individuals to encourage a suitable community-based organization to take over animal welfare programs.
SYNOPSIS: Staff is recommending that the City terminate the current phase of discussions with the Humane Society of Cascade County to renew the contract for animal control and shelter operations. The City Manager, with the support of the Police Chief, recommends that the City take over animal enforcement and shelter operations for a three to six month interim period until the HSCC is able to rehabilitate itself, until a new organization emerges, or until the City can form a new 501 C (3) organization to handle animal control and shelter operations.
BACKGROUND: In 2002, the City of Great Falls and Humane Society of Cascade County entered into a five-year agreement through June 30, 2007. At their June 19, 2007, meeting, the City Commission approved an extension of that agreement through July 31, 2007. Since that time, staff has been in discussions with Board members of the HSCC and, as a result of those discussions, is recommending the City take over animal operations.

The reasons for this recommendation are as follows:

1. The HSCC does not have a functional board of directors or adequate community involvement. At this time there are just three active members out of a total of nine positions. This has been an ongoing problem and we know of no plan to correct it.
2. The HSCC has not had an executive director for over a year. Management and supervision is inadequate. We have received a variety of complaints from employees about mismanagement and wrongdoing. We are also receiving complaints from the public.
3. We are about to start a new year of licensing with a new fee schedule and we question whether there is an adequate record keeping system to ensure accountability for public funds.
4. We have attempted to work out the problems with the HSCC and proposed solutions
have been rejected. Enclosed are minutes of a meeting between City staff and two HSCC board members, a proposed memorandum of understanding which would enable us to renew the agreement for the temporary period approved by the City
Commission, and the HSCC Chairman’s letter of refusal.

If you approve this action our plan is as follows:
1. On Thursday, July 5, staff will go to the shelter with Human Resources representatives and interview available employees to determine job duties and responsibilities and to review their qualifications and employment history. Our intent is to hire needed employees from among the present employees to the extent practicable, although it is not possible to guarantee at this time that every current employee will be hired.
2. The Police Chief will appoint one of the Captains to supervise enforcement and shelter operations.
3. Park and Recreation staff will help in equipping and getting the shelter into operational condition since the HSCC has indicated they will strip the building of all furnishings, equipment, cages, etc., and leave the building bare.
4. Staff will evaluate the need for computers, record keeping systems, etc. since the HSCC has indicated to the Chief that they will take all records and computer equipment. The Police Chief will take necessary steps to preserve City records.

The City has budgeted $115,000 for animal control for the FY beginning July 1. In addition to that we will have revenues from licensing and fees. This could amount to as much as $100,000. We will have plenty of time to evaluate budgetary needs well before we have a budget problem.

Attachments: Meeting Minutes
Proposed Memorandum of Understanding
HSCC Letter of Refusal
(These attachments are not available online; on file in the City Clerk’s Office.)

So…any of you plan to attend the meeting on Tuesday?

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