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Aug 19, 2009 1:03 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Animal shelter may go private

Aug 19, 2009 1:03 PM

Talks are underway at Town Hall to hand the keys to the Southampton Town Animal Shelter over to a private operator.

Though no decision has been made, the Southampton Town Board will soon be accepting bids from prospective contractors interested in taking over shelter operations. The board held a work session Tuesday to fine-tune the request for proposals that likely will be made public early next month.

If privatized, the primary function of the shelter—housing the animals, providing them medical care and finding them adoptive homes—would remain the same, although animal control operations would remain under the town’s jurisdiction, board members said. The contractor would also have to continue to operate at the shelter’s current location, on town owned property at 102 Old Riverhead Road in Hampton Bays, where it was constructed in 2003. The town would remain the owner of the building and the property and would likely pay only for maintenance to the exterior property.

Other details, including who would be responsible for what portion of the utilities and how various fees—for adoptions and dog licenses—would be divvied up, has not yet been ironed out.

The possibility of privatizing the shelter first came up in June as town officials began looking at ways to minimize costs across town government. The board cut back the staff earlier this year and recently shortened the shelter’s hours of operation.

The shelter’s budget for 2009 is $745,558 with $436,913 going to salaries.

Assistant Town Attorney Joe Burke is helping the board hash out the parameters of a future private contract. The board may adopt a finalized RFP at its next meeting, on Tuesday, August 25.

Town Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst, the board’s liaison to the shelter, said job protection for the current employees at the shelter must be worked in any potential takeover. “We should build that into the contract from the beginning, so those bidding know our concerns up front,” she said.

Town Supervisor Linda Kabot, on the other hand, said inserting that language before the RFP goes out could result in fewer bids. “We may not get any proposals,” she said, adding that Southampton Youth Services, or SYS, and the municipal golf course are run by private entities and are not staffed with government employees. “It’s laudable that you’re concerned about the current staff, and that’s something we can discuss, but that doesn’t belong in the context of an RFP.”

But Ms. Throne-Holst said she wasn’t comfortable leaving out a layer of protection for the current shelter staff.

“We need to make it clear that we want to protect our shelter employees who have shown a great deal of care and dedication,” Ms. Throne-Holst said. “We have a long list of specific requirements in this RFP—I don’t know why we can’t include that.”

Town Board members did agree, however, on adding language in the contract that would ensure the health and safety of the animals and that would allow town officials, as well as the SPCA, to make period checks of the facility. Town Attorney Dan Adams offered a suggestion that would give the town the leverage to resume operations should there be egregious violations to the well-being of the animals or maintenance of the building or grounds.

If handed over to a private entity, that contractor would have to adhere to the laws and guidelines set by the state’s Department of Agriculture and Markets.

At the end of the day, Ms. Kabot said, it would be up to the full Town Board to accept or reject any bid.

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This is baloney - if the Town can take care of the animals AND save money - stop politicizing the transition. Can't have it both ways Anna . . . and for this reporter - how much exactly ARE civil service employees paid to work there per year? Can we please get facts along with a story some time soon? Maybe get volunteers to make telephone calls or to FOIL this stuff for you if you don't have the time!
By Board Watcher (534), East Hampton on Aug 17, 09 11:51 PM
1 member liked this comment
Anna can't take care of Ola at an ethical point ...how can she be a "liaison" for the poor defenseless animals.
By UNITED states CITIZEN (207), SOUTHAMPTON on Aug 18, 09 10:14 AM
In other cities, financial responsibility can fall (and fail) on either side of the coin. In both cases, pay for the shelter workers is modest, at best. It will be interesting to see how this story progresses.
By bettawolfe (1), Brighton on Aug 19, 09 11:45 AM
All of a sudden Anna shows concern for shelter employees???? Wendy must find that heartwarming.
By barnbabe (64), westhampton beach on Aug 19, 09 3:50 PM
2 members liked this comment
First of all the 2009 Shelter budget was about $745,500 with about $450,000 going for salaries. The total town buget was $82.5 million. Doing the math, the shelter's total budge is 0.9% of the total town budget. We are one of the wealthiest towns on Long Island. I think we can afford $750,000 for an animal shelter.

It also seems to me that they could do a better job of doing things that can bring money into the shelter. I dont believe it should be a money making operation, but ...more
By Paradox (2), East Quogue on Oct 6, 09 6:22 PM