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County may end its contract with PAWS

The cost-cutting move could mean some services would be consolidated at the Everett Animal Shelter.

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By Noah Haglund
Herald Writer
@NWHaglund
Published:
LYNNWOOD — Snohomish County has suggested ending its long-established contract with the Progressive Animal Welfare Society in Lynnwood and instead concentrate services at the Everett Animal Shelter.
The move would end a relationship of more than 20 years that both sides described as positive. The switch, intended to save about $40,000, is one of several adjustments Auditor Carolyn Weikel has proposed to cope with a leaner budget in 2011.
“PAWS is a really good organization,” Weikel said. “This has nothing to do with that. We've had a long, very positive working relationship with them.”
If Snohomish County goes through with a plan to cancel its contract with the PAWS animal shelter in Lynnwood, the shelter would stop accepting stray animals from unincorporated areas of Snohomish County on Jan. 1. People bringing strays from unincorporated areas would instead be directed to the Everett Animal Shelter, though people could still surrender their own animals for a fee. The Lynnwood shelter accepted 1,200 dogs and cats from unincorporated areas last year. *
The auditor mentioned the potential changes as part of regular, public meetings she and other county leaders are having with the County Council to prepare for next year's budget. The council also is seeking comments at a meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday in Edmonds.
The information should help the council decide what changes to make to the proposed 2011 budget that County Executive Aaron Reardon released at the end of September. In his $201.8 million spending plan, Reardon calls for cuts across all departments. Though that number's only about $200,000 less than in 2010, the county also faces rising health care costs plus unfunded state and federal mandates.
To meet mandated savings targets, many county departments are losing vacant jobs they've held open during the past two years.
Sheriff John Lovick, for example, said he has eliminated 27 vacancies, laid off two child-interview specialists and notified 10 deputies that they might lose their jobs.
The auditor handles a variety of functions, including running elections, recording documents and operating animal control and licensing.
The office stands to lose about 6 percent of its budget in 2011, shrinking to just under $9 million from nearly $9.6 million last year. That means a loss of at least a half-dozen vacant positions, leaving a staff of 45.
In addition to the animal-control contract, other changes at the auditor's office could include eliminating some on-site business inspections and longer turnaround times for renewing vehicle registrations.
Further cutbacks to customer-service hours are possible as well. Customer-service desks at the auditor's licensing and recording divisions already close from noon to 1 p.m. daily and an hour early on Fridays.
Public works and fire marshal employees would handle permits for special events they have to inspect anyway, Weikel said. Sheriff's deputies already keep a close watch on pawn brokers and adult businesses.
“If there is illegal activity at those businesses, we would be there anyway,” Lovick said.
Five adult businesses — bathhouses, video stores and bookstores — remain in the county after the shutdown in May of Honey's strip club in south Everett.
No businesses have requested adult-business licenses under stricter rules that went into effect this year for drive-through businesses such as coffee stands with nearly nude employees, Weikel said. The office hasn't received any complaints about employee behavior either.
Snohomish County's contract with PAWS costs about $100,000 per year. That's about half of the total contracts the Lynnwood nonprofit has with government agencies, but a fraction of its $4.1 million reported revenue in 2009, mostly from contributions and grants.
County officials met with PAWS in September to discuss the change, which came as a surprise to the organization's leadership.
“We are saddened and concerned about what's going to happen next,” said Kay Joubert, PAWS director for companion-animal services. “What we're doing is currently assessing our budget and our business model.”
Joubert said she was concerned about staffing levels in Everett and wondered how the county planned to save the money, since many of the fees at the two shelters are similar.
The Everett shelter cited a lack of space and staffing as factors in its decision in September to put down nearly all of its cats after discovering a kitten that died in its cage had feline panleukopenia, an infectious virus also known as feline distemper.
The county's contract with the Everett shelter ranges between about $225,000 and $250,000 per year, depending on the number of animals that come in, Weikel said. There are sufficient differences in how the two shelters charge for their services to account for savings, she said.
Another reason for the change is that county animal control officers only dropped off 22 animals to PAWS last year and many times that number to Everett, Weikel said. The county also has helped pay for the Everett facility, which has the advantage of being centrally located.
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

Have your say
The Snohomish County Council hosts the last of three public budget meetings at 6 p.m. Monday at Edmonds City Council Chambers, 250 5th Ave. N., Edmonds. The public is encouraged to attend and offer comments.
Hearings on County Executive Aaron Reardon's proposed 2011 budget are scheduled at the Snohomish County campus, 3000 Rockefeller Ave., Everett at 10:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. Nov. 3. The County Council is expected to release its budget, also called the striker, Nov. 15. A public hearing on the council's budget, including a possible final vote, is scheduled at 10:30 a.m. Nov. 22, also at the county campus.

*Correction, Nov. 9, 2010: If Snohomish County goes through with a plan to cancel its contract with the PAWS animal shelter in Lynnwood, the shelter would stop accepting stray animals from unincorporated areas of Snohomish County on Jan. 1. People bringing strays from unincorporated areas would instead be directed to the Everett Animal Shelter, though people could still surrender their own animals for a fee. The
Lynnwood shelter accepted 1,200 dogs and cats from unincorporated areas last year. This story originally misstated PAWS' new policy.
Story tags » Snohomish County governmentAnimals

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