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Oct 19, 2009 1:37 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town will try negotiating with shelter bidder

Oct 19, 2009 1:37 PM

As Southampton Town considers shuttering its animal shelter to save money, a local non-profit is trying to keep it from closing.

The Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation, led by Southampton philanthropist Susan Allen, is offering to split the shelter’s operating costs with the town, according to a detailed bid submitted to the town on September 30. The shelter cost the town about $1 million to run this year. Town Supervisor Linda Kabot’s budget pegs animal shelter spending at zero for next year—leaving nearly 200 animals currently housed at the shelter with an uncertain fate beyond January 1.

Ms. Allen’s proposal also calls for all nine full-time shelter workers who are facing layoffs under Ms. Kabot’s 2010 budget to keep their jobs.

A longtime member of the Southampton Animal Shelter Advisory Committee who donated more than $1.4 million in 1999 to help build the animal shelter, Ms. Allen declined a request for comment. However, Susan Kelly, an aide to Ms. Allen, said Ms. Allen hopes to continue current policy at the shelter, including a “no-kill” policy prohibiting the euthanization of most adoptable animals.

“The bottom line is that Susan Allen is trying to keep the shelter open and keep the jobs for people there,” Ms. Kelly said. “She just wants the town to have a shelter and have it run the best it can be run.”

Because state law does not require towns to have animal shelters, Southampton can close its facility, Assistant Town Attorney Joseph Burke said. However, the town must continue to house stray dogs for at least five days using its own kennels or a contractor’s kennels. “If Susan Allen takes it over then that will be part of the contract,” Mr. Burke said. “But if it’s closed, then we might have to explore holding those dogs at another venue.”

Mr. Burke expected to meet with Ms. Allen this week to discuss the foundation’s proposal. The town will consider Ms. Allen’s proposal before considering other options, he said.

“The first step is to see if we can make that contract happen,” Mr. Burke said. “We’re working on the contract first before we cross that bridge.”

A sticking point in the proposed contract is whether shelter employees would lose their municipal health benefits and Civil Service Employee Association status in a transition to privatization. Ms. Allen wants employees to continue to receive health benefits from the town, Mr. Burke said. However, Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst, the animal shelter liaison, said the town will likely not agree to paying for the health benefits of shelter employees if the shelter is privatized.

According to the 2008 budget, the town spent $435,405 on the salaries and benefits for the nine shelter employees. Of that, $93,910 went to benefits.

Ms. Throne-Holst is also skeptical the Town Board would support spending $500,000 a year on a contract with the foundation. Under Ms. Allen’s proposal, the town would pay $1.5 million over three years to the foundation, while an additional $1.5 million is footed by Ms. Allen to cover added costs. “We may not get the support from the rest of the Town Board on that,” Ms. Throne-Holst said.

Still, the councilwoman hoped to negotiate for a lower price. “The hope is that we can come up with something that is palatable for the rest of the board,” Ms. Throne-Holst said.

The town began seeking bidders early last month for the operation of the animal shelter. The town closed the bidding period on September 30.

Riverhead Shelter Volunteer Program, the only other applicant to submit a bid, made no offer to take over operation of the shelter, Mr. Burke said. Rather, RSVP, a group of about 25 volunteers who operate in eastern and central Suffolk County, offered to help the town raise funds for the shelter. According to a recent RSVP financial statement, the group collected a total of $83,229 in 2008 through fund-raising activities, contributions and grants.

RSVP’s bid proposes to split the proceeds of any fund-raising drives with Southampton. In return, the group would demand access to at least four kennels at the shelter.

As of Friday, RSVP volunteer Susan Hansen of Rocky Point said town officials had not reached out to her to discuss the bid. “I think it would be to their advantage and ours” if the bid was accepted, Ms. Hansen said. “I think everyone could gain from that arrangement.”

But Mr. Burke said RSVP’s bid was unlikely to “save the shelter” by raising significant amounts of money. “It doesn’t answer the real problem right now, which is funding,” Mr. Burke said.

As town officials rush to find a solution, Animal Shelter Supervisor Donald Bambrick said the town’s option’s are “pretty limited” if it is forced to close the shelter. If no acceptable bidder is found, a mass adoption campaign would have to be launched to find homes for all the shelter’s animals, Mr. Bambrick said. Currently, about 140 cats and 30 dogs are housed at the shelter, in addition to other animals including rabbits, guinea pigs and birds.

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Does this mean we can leave homeless cats and dogs at Mr. Burke's and Ms.Throne-Holst's homes ?
By nurse (53), sag harbor on Oct 14, 09 2:22 AM
Please sign the petition to urge the town to negotiate a privatization agreement! Go to:
http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/savetheSHanimalshelter/

Only your name & email address are needed, and you can sign as anonymous. Please help save the shelter.
By April Gornik (3), North Haven on Oct 14, 09 11:12 PM
Yes , lets all pitch in to help these helpless animals !
By PrivateerMatt (390), Weesuck Creek , EQ on Oct 15, 09 10:31 AM
We are one of the weathiest towns on Long Island and we cant afford to pay less than one percent of our total town budget for an animal shelter? According to this artice in the press: http://www.27east.com/story_detail.cfm?id=228758&town=Hampton Bays&n=Animal%20shelter%20may%20go%20private, the 2009 budget for the shelter was $745,000 not 1 million. Out of the total 2009 budget of 82 million thats 0.9%. Yet we can afford to remodel the bathrooms and Linda's office in Town Hall. Tell you what ...more
By Paradox (2), East Quogue on Oct 15, 09 5:58 PM
1 member liked this comment
did they put a open bar there in the new remodel
By JJ (4), hampton bays on Oct 22, 09 1:13 AM
Privitazing the shelter will not necessarily save the currently homeless animals...if the shelter is privatized, they are NOT REQUIRED to accept animals brought in by the general public or Animal Control...
By EQMama (29), East Quogue on Oct 16, 09 3:01 PM
You are right, and the great reputation that this shelter now has (because of shelter director Christine Russell) will go downhill if this group takes over- people aren't aware that this group that wants to privatize have been a source of TROUBLE with every shelter director at Southampton since 2000- it's an issue of "power and control" with this group, not the welfare of the animals-
By gina (5), Patchogue on Oct 19, 09 2:09 PM
1 member liked this comment
Agreed 1000%.
By EQMama (29), East Quogue on Oct 26, 09 4:02 PM
get linda out of there
By dbnyeve (19), wading river on Oct 18, 09 8:54 AM
So sad...your neighbors are becoming homeless at an alarming rate yet all some can worry about is animals. Food pantrys are at record demand, families will go without just to keep fuel in the house but the animals will have what the working poor can't. Nice.
By squeaky (291), hampton bays on Oct 18, 09 5:07 PM
Just because we are concerned for the shelter animals does not mean we are not concerned with people too, so don't be so quick to judge! if people would SPAY and NEUTER their pets and be RESPONSIBLE pet owners, the overpoulation of animals wouldn't be a problem! Those are the heartless people, not those of us that care about the NUMEROUS abandoned, abused, and homeless animals. If this shelter closes in a comparatively wealthy town such as Southampton, we need a total overhaul of this pathetic ...more
By Hamptons Resident (4), Westhampton on Oct 23, 09 10:20 AM
1 member liked this comment
The generous past donor, Susan Allen, must be so gratified to see how well her donation has been used . . . a beautiful facility has been built, and now the Town can't afford to keep it operational? Incredible.
By barnbabe (64), westhampton beach on Oct 19, 09 6:03 PM
1 member liked this comment
Had she given her money to be used as the Town and the Shelter managment saw fit, I might agree. But she did not do that. Ms. Allen's financial donations have come with expectations...they have been held over the heads of those in charge any time a decision was made that, while it might have been the best for the animals and the town, wasn't the best in Ms. Allen's eyes...
By EQMama (29), East Quogue on Oct 26, 09 4:06 PM
http://www.town.southampton.ny.us/2009Budget/2010-TENT-town-police.pdf

$3.6M can be freed up in the budge to pay for the continuation of the Animal Shelter and to prevent the termination of Town employees. The above pages from the proposed budget show that 27 STPD officers are being retained on full salary beyond their twenty year employment anniversary when they were supposed, by contract, to retire.

No Southampton politician has mentioned this sweet police ride since a year ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Oct 20, 09 12:14 AM
1 member liked this comment
Government should never have been involved in this business to begin with. Animal shelteres across the country are mostly private or not-for-profit. Let a Humane Society take it over or close it entirely. Taxpayer maoney has no business being wasted here when there are higher priorities that need funding. If all you animal lovers want to keep the shelter open, use your own money, donate!
By Walt (292), Southampton on Oct 20, 09 7:58 PM
Your statement is absolutely false. I cannot think of a single city that does not have a department of animal control. The more enlightened ones have the civil animal control department AND an SPCA, as well.

It is an entirely appropriate use of civic manpower and funds if only from the point of view of public safety.

There are millions of dollars of fat in the proposed budget. The Town Council just has to develop a spine and neither the shelter, nor any Town jobs, need be cut ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Oct 20, 09 11:47 PM
I say High Hat Size for supervisor!!!
By Crankie (10), Southampton on Oct 21, 09 9:01 AM
1 member liked this comment
Taking the widest possible view, we would not be confronted with these hard choices if the crowd so long in power had observed basic accounting rules and made a few simple transfers when they had to be made. Instead, we are in the hole for $20 million and must choose between cops and kitties. Most of the crowd so long in power has departed from the scene, but two remain in office, and both are runing for re-election in November -- Linda Kabot and Chris Nuzzi. Neither deserves to be returned to ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Oct 22, 09 10:49 AM