Thursday, February 23, 2023

Shelter Financing Costs Better Spent on Spay/Neuter

San Angelo City Council approved a $2 million note to finance urgent updates to the Animal Shelter.  Staff did not present the cost of issuing the notes or the interest that will be paid on that borrowing.  No member of City Council asked about those costs.

A public information request showed the cost to issue the notes is $55,000 and interest paid to investors will be $32,000.  There was nearly an additional $5,000 in rounding.  These items total $92,000 and are an expense solely due to borrowing the money vs. using the city's ample cash reserves.

Staff noted that Animal Services would have to reduce services further during a four to six month construction period.  Council discussed the funds would only update the existing facility and not result in any strategic changes in shelter operation.

$92,000 would fund a healthy low cost spay/neuter program.  It's disappointing that city leadership and elected officials didn't raise the cost of borrowing and how those funds could instead be used to help citizens spay/neuter their pets.  

Update 3-16-23:  The City Council background packet indicates the tax note amount increased to $2,560,000 which will likely drive up both the issuance cost and interest expense.  The notes mature on September 30, 2023.  This could be an error in light of the same document showing principal repayment of $1,995,000.   Hopefully Council will clear up the discrepancy in their upcoming meeting.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Gilbert Consulting Up for Fifth Contract

San Angelo's City Council will consider another contract with Gilbert Consulting for $36,000 under its consent agenda.  The contract allows for retired Judge Allen Gilbert to assist the Municipal Court.

Council approved four $60,000 annual contracts since Gilbert's retirement in 2019, three on the consent agenda and one in closed session..  That's a nice $240,000 post retirement gig.  It could rise to $276,000 with Council's approval.

Update 2-21-23:  Once again City Council voted for the contract with Gilbert Consulting.  No public discussion occurred as it was not pulled from the consent agenda.

Update 4-15-24:  City Council may grant Gilbert Consulting another two years of work at $36,000 per year.  

Consider approving a one-year contract with one option to extend with Gilbert Consulting Services, LLC. in the amount of $3000 per month

And Municipal Court revenue has gone down by how much during his consulting term?

Friday, February 17, 2023

City Clerk Position on Council Agenda

City Council will consider the appointment of a new City Clerk in their upcoming meeting.  The discussion will occur in closed session. 

Interim City Clerk Heather Stastny prepared the Council agenda.  Stastny started with the City as Human Resources Coordinator in 2015 and promoted to Deputy City Clerk in 2020.  With Antilley's departure Stastny has been designated Interim City Clerk.  

The public is yet to hear why former City Clerk Julia Antilley is no longer in that role.  Antilley led the effort to reduce access to public information requests prior to her departure.  

Update 2-21-23:  City Manager Daniel Valenzuela announced the appointment of Heather Stastny as the new City Clerk after Council reconvened from Closed Session.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Animal Shelter Capital Request Soars

In the last City Council meeting Councilman Larry Miller asked for an Animal Shelter update.  There is not one on the agenda.  However, City Council will consider a recommendation to fund Animal Shelter improvements via a $2 million bond.  The meeting background packet states:

Animal Shelter Improvements:

Animal shelter improvements are described below and are estimated to cost $1,642,000. Staff recommends the project be funded in its entirety as phasing it in overtime would almost certainly yield complete system failures, making the facility unusable. Continuing mandatory operations without this facility is not possible.

Improvements to animal service shelters are necessary to maintain and continue mandated operations. Last completed in 1999, significant facility repairs are needed to keep offering programs and services – many of which are mandated operations – at the Animal Services shelter.

The Animal Services Division is solely responsible for preventing the spread of disease from animals to humans in our community. For a facility that is occupied round the clock, major system failures have exceeded the maintenance level and now require a capital investment.

The following items must be implemented across the facility to meet standards:

1. Overhaul HVAC system installed including venting, air handling units and compressors.
2. New ventilation system to exhaust air outside.
3. Redesign lighting system.
4. Replace ceiling tiles throughout.
5.Improve door security through corridors.

General population kennels comprise more than 3,000 square feet of the facility and do not serve us well. A complete rehabilitation of this room would provide a much-improved customer experience. Such improvements include:

1. Install dropped ceiling.
2. Assemble new plastic kennels and doors.
3. Raise kennel floors with trench drains.

We also plan to reconfigure the tame cat room to expand the lobby to appropriate proportions. Finally, refurbishing the exam and canine intake rooms was previously funded and will be completed with these other improvements.

Hopefully someone will ask what the total costs are for the shelter renovation project, the $1.6 million plus previously budgeted capital items?

The current operating budget has $1,000 for capital (technology).  The latest Capital Improvement Plan shows $345,000 for Animal Shelter Rehabilitation.   Together they fall far short of the $2 million requested.

Renovating the existing building will likely require reducing shelter capacity even further.  New construction would enable the shelter to utilize current space while adding better kennel space.

The other odd thing is the $2 million note is short term and would be paid off by the end of the fiscal year.  The city has plenty of cash in its general fund.  Why pay placement fees and interest expense for a bond that runs a few months?  

The last oddity is this item was not on the agenda for the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee meeting that was scheduled for earlier today.  

I expect Council would want an operations update prior to throwing $2 million at the Animal Shelter.  Also, what is the strategic plan for the shelter going forward?  Is it the operations plan put forward by City Manager Daniel Valenzuela after his assessment or Pets Alive priorities which got our city into third world levels of loose animals?  

Concho Valley PAWS spay/neuter vouchers got more expensive this month after a two month absence.  Also, City Council is yet to hear an update on the City Attorney's office issuance of citations to shelter adopters yet to spay/neuter their pet as required by city ordinance over the last two years.

This discussion around this agenda item will reveal much.  

Update 2-21-23:  There was remarkably little discussion for this item which council unanimously approved.   Several Council members and Shelter Chief Morgan Chegwidden noted that the nearly $2 million will simply bring aspects of the current building into a more functional state.  During the renovation the shelter will need to have the current kennel space completely emptied for roughly six months.

Council missed yet another opportunity to do the most basic strategic planning for animal services, after passing on that in the last budget cycle.  

Update 2-22-23:  The ASAC meeting did not occur as the committee failed to reach a quorum.  Hopefully, the ASAC will hold their first meeting of 2023 on April 20, 2023. 

Update 2-26-23:  Concho Valley Homepage did a story suggesting the city had done no improvements to the Animal Shelter since 1999.  Of course the city has made some facility changes over the last two decades.  Concho Valley Homepage ran such a story in 2015.  It stated:

Among the improvements slated for the shelter, 3142 U.S. Highway 67 North, are the remodeling of a conference room into a new and more customer-friendly adoption center, the installation of a kiosk for viewing lost and adoptable animals, a thorough cleaning and application of insecticides on the shelter’s grounds, upgrades to the socialization areas for animals and potential adopters, and the addition of doors, locks, gates and security cameras to better control access internally and externally.

Animal Shelter Chief Morgan Chegwidden is the former Budget Manager for the City.  It would've been more accurate to state the city has done "no significant improvements."  The story did note how the shelter once again plans to limit citizen access during the renovation period.  I'll wager it takes longer than the "four to six months" cited by city officials.

Update 9-27-23:  The City's Capital Improvement Plan has a 4-30-24 completion date for Animal Shelter renovations.  The project is yet to be bid on the city's purchasing website.

Update 2-8-24:  So much for that urgent need for facility updates, now nearly a year old.  City Council's January 16, 2024 background packet states:

Although originally planned to proceed in November 2023, complex engineering needs prompted a new timeline to break ground this summer.
Summer 2024, at least a year late.

Update 3-7-24:  The latest schedule information is:
....the bid phase is delayed to May 2024 with estimated construction completion in November 2024.

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Shelter Intake Remains Low, ASAC Vacancies


Intake for the City of San Angelo Animal Shelter remains down from prior years and stood at 193 animals in January.  For the last four months of 2022 the shelter took in approximate 1,000 fewer animals than it did in 2017.  After the roach infestation/horrific hoarding conditions the shelter largely cut off accepting lost dogs from concerned citizens

The Animal Shelter Advisory Committee (ASAC) issued an agenda for their February 16, 2023 meeting.  Achieving a quorum may be more difficult as the Committee has two vacancies, positions previously held by:

SMD 4 representative: Michelle Barnett

SMD 5 representative: Bambi Aker

The agenda packet does not indicate why either member resigned or is no longer serving.  The information makes clear the shelter continues to follow Pets Alive protocols and strategies, which prioritize long stay, difficult to adopt dogs in the shelter over serving tax paying citizens.  

The packet does not provide information on the city's efforts to enforce its spay/neuter ordinance. which began in August  2022.  It is reasonable to expect information on this enforcement be available to this committee.

Concho Valley PAWS, the shelter's adoption/veterinary services contractor, recently made changes to its SNIP program (spay/neuter vouchers).   PAWS ceased public distribution of vouchers for the last two months and increased prices nearly across the board.  Those are not reflected in the ASAC agenda.

Also not on the agenda is the Animal Services update for City Council planned for February 21st.  The ASAC's purpose is to advise and assist the city's Animal Services Manager.  One might expect a public board to report up the chain, i.e. advise and assist City Council.  That is not the case.

San Angelo's City Council has supported the drastic reduction in services from the Animal Shelter and there are no signs that may change.  The February ASAC meeting, if it is held, will likely provide few clues to what the Animal Services Manager will present to Council the following Tuesday.

Update 2-22-23:  The ASAC meeting did not occur as the committee failed to reach a quorum.  Hopefully, the ASAC will hold their first meeting of 2023 on April 20, 2023.  

Update 3-23-23:  Council reappointed Bambi Aker (SMD 5) to the ASAC.  One vacancy remains to be filled.

Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Concho Valley PAWS New Voucher Program

Concho Valley PAWS restarted its low cost spay/neuter voucher program after stopping it for the last two months.  The new program is more expensive for most pet owners.  Cat vouchers rose $5 while Dog vouchers went up anywhere from $20 to $40 for most dogs.  The cost for a male dog under 25 pounds went down $5.

PAWS website shared the price of additional services and a list of veterinary clinics that accept their low cost spay/neuter vouchers.  PAWS SNIP clinic is one of the four listed providers.

PAWS is the adoption/veterinary service provider for the City of San Angelo Animal Shelter, which released nearly 1,500 unaltered pets over the last two years.

The city enacted a mandatory spay/neuter ordinance in 2015.  It got serious about enforcement around the time of the shelter roach infestation.  Issuing citations for failure to spay/neuter their shelter pet may have increased the demand for low cost spay/neuter vouchers.

Animal Services will update City Council at their next meeting on February 21st, according to City Councilman Larry Miller.  Will they cover enforcement numbers on spay/neuter compliance?  Will they share the impact of two months of PAWS not giving out spay/neuter vouchers for December and January?  Will they note PAWS voucher price increases and potential impact on citizens?

The shelter is full of large dogs that would cost $80 to $100 for a PAWS spay/neuter voucher.  One can adopt a shelter pet for free.  Keeping one is not.