Sunday, April 23, 2023

Animal Shelter "Under Construction"

Animal Shelter rehabilitation is underway according to the City of San Angelo website.  Shelter volunteers who work with dogs are unaware of this given their comments at Thursday's Animal Shelter Advisory Committee meeting.   

The information (pictured above) came from the city's capital improvement projects section of its website.  Two months ago this same page showed a $345,000 project.  It changed to just over $1.6 million.  The software allows the CIP document to change midyear.  Prior CIP's are static PDF documents.

The CIP document implies that four steps have already been accomplished, proposal, design, issuance of an RFP (request for proposal), and selection of a vendor.  There is no bid document for shelter renovations on the city's purchasing website, so did the city skip the RFP phase of the process?   Also, there is room for a project timeline but that portion is currently empty.

In the initial Feb. 21st presentation on the project Shelter Chief Morgan Chegwidden said "the vendor" would help determine logistics regarding the removal of shelter animals as the project progresses over a 4 to 6 month time-frame. 

The city lists the person responsible for that operation as "project manager."  If construction is actually underway it would make more sense for someone other than the Shelter Chief to manage that effort?

The City has a construction management department headed by Al Torres.  

The construction manager performs assignments that include design development, development of bid specifications, evaluation of bid proposals, contract development and management, construction inspection and general contractor/construction manager duties. 

Mr. Torres never spoke at either City Council meeting where this borrowing was approved.  The item has not returned to Council since their March 21st meeting.

The city received the funds April 6th and will have use of them until August 15th.  It will be interesting to see the status of Shelter renovations when the funds become due. 

Update 5-15-23:  Staff will request funds from City Council for $118,471 for engineering design services for the rehabilitation of the existing Animal Shelter.  They recommend hiring Freese and Nichols which employs former Assistant City Manager Elizabeth Grindstaff.  The meeting will be held on May 17th.

Update 5-17-23:  City Council heard that shelter renovations are projected to be completed in January 2024.  They approved hiring Freese and Nichols for engineering design services and construction administration.

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

Friday, April 21, 2023

PAWS Public Comments at Animal Services Committee

The Animal Shelter Advisory Committee met today and three members of the public spiced up the meeting.  In general public comment a shelter volunteer through Conch Valley PAWS asked about plans to renovate the shelter as "it is falling apart."   They said PAWS was busting their butts to make things better and the city needed to help out.

That item could easily have been on the agenda given the city plans to spend roughly $1.6 million for just that purpose ($1.6 million in borrowings along with prior capital budget allocations of $345,000).  It wasn't and Shelter Chief Morgan Chegwidden provided no response to her public comment.  Shelter renovations are yet to be put out for bid on the city's purchasing website.

Later public comments addressed facility constraints regarding inadequate drainage and lack of an area to bathe dogs who've run around in their own excrement.  Poor food quality was cited as one contributor to widespread diarrhea in the city shelter.

Two citizens raised the issue of euthanizing specific dogs vs. having the general dog population be below a specific number. One was a PAWS volunteer and the other a former Animal Shelter employee.

A different PAWS volunteer asked that she be allowed to walk shelter dogs earlier in the day.  The public can access adoption services when PAWS is open

Spring & Summer (23 hours per week)
Wed-Fri:  1:00pm-7:00pm
Sat:  11:00am-4:00pm

Fall & Winter (22 hours per week)
Wed-Fri:  12:00pm-6:00pm
Sat:  11:00am-3:00pm

Volunteers are currently limited to Concho Valley PAWS and their hours of operation.  That means no volunteers three days a week, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.  San Angelo Animal Shelter hours are 10 am to 6 pm Monday through Friday

Dog walking in the afternoon summer heat is a poor idea for dogs and volunteers.

City staff raised the Charlotte-Mecklenburg shelter as a model for "community sheltering."  That operation is open seven days a week for adoptions.

Our Business Hours:  (52 hours per week)
Monday - Friday: 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday: 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.

The City of San Angelo backed its way into "community" sheltering in November 2022.  The idea did not come from community meetings or City Council strategic planning sessions.   It occurred virtually overnight after City Councilman Tom Thompson said Council would back staff on a hard maximum number of pets to be housed in the shelter.  

The shelter remains full of dogs.  Yesterday PAWS website showed available shelter dogs, many large dogs with multi-year stays.  

  • 94 dogs have been in the San Angelo Animal Shelter more than two years.  One dog has been in the shelter twelve years.  
  • 116 dogs have been in the shelter less than two years.  
  • 24 had no time frame associated with their shelter stay but a number of those are puppies.

The interaction between Shelter Chief Chegwidden and the British lady she fired ended when the Committee Chair said Chegwidden did not have the information to answer the question.  The issue was selection of shelter pets for the advertised euthanasia list.  The "fired" lady said PAWS Executive Director was unaware that an adoptable dog she worked with had made the list.  

The last PAWS volunteer referred to the horrific hoarding conditions at the shelter last summer amidst the roach infestation.  It was not hard to see something similar today given the volunteers' descriptions of dogs running around in their own diarrhea and their inability to bathe the dogs due to poor drainage.

There was no public comment for the item on spay/neuter enforcement and asking Council for $10,000 to fund low cost spay/neuter.  

Two out of the three public commenters represented PAWS and the third asked a question based on their interaction with PAWS Executive Director.  Other area rescues quit going to ASAC meetings after the city doubled down on strategies that produced horrific overcrowding.  They got more reason to stay away after the city quit taking dogs once the population reached a certain number.

PAWS related public comments may reveal cracks in their exclusive arrangement with the city.  Then again, it may not.  Maybe a few caring people showed up to be heard.  Let's hope they aren't driven away like legions before them.

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.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Animal Shelter Committee to Discuss Community Sheltering

The Animal Shelter Advisory Committee meets tomorrow for the first time in six months.  After approving the October 2022 minutes and getting several monthly reports the committee plans to discuss community-supported sheltering of unowned pets.  The slides reference an effort by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Care and Control.  That shelter is open to the public seven days a week.

San Angelo's City Council effectively forced unowned pets to stay in the community when City Councilman Tom Thompson gave the green light for the Animal Shelter to have a hard maximum number of pets in November 2022.  At least one resident was threatened with arrest if they took the stray dogs that killed their outdoor cats to the shelter as it was at capacity and city officials did not deem the dogs dangerous. 

Forced community "sheltering" will get worse as the city renovates the Animal Shelter.  The city's purchasing department is yet to issue a bid request for those renovations despite borrowing nearly $2 million ($1.6 million for shelter renovations).  

Debt issuance fees are $49,000, bond counsel fees $3,500 and interest costs $41,327.  Those total $93,827, a significant amount that could fund a low cost spay/neuter program.  That leads to the next item on the agenda.

The ASAC will consider enforcement of the city ordinance requiring pets to be spayed-neutered and funding to assist with such surgeries.  The background packet provides no statistics on the focused effort to identify adopters who did not get their Shelter pet spayed/neutered.  This is not a new issue.

“So the veterinarians report a missed appointment but we would not report a compliance issue.” -- Morgan Chegwidden to City Council on 2-20-18

The packet also does not include the number of citations given by Animal Control officers in their normal business.  Shelter Chief Morgan Chegwidden's predecessor said the city would give citizens a grace period to get used to the new ordinance before writing tickets for failure to spay/neuter.

Not providing data on spay/neuter is a fixture for the City of San Angelo.  It has hidden behind adoption contractor Concho Valley PAWS a number of times when compliance data was requested.

Staff propose the ASAC once again ask City Council for $10,000 in funds for low cost spay/neuter. Council chose not to act on that recommendation in November 2022 when it effectively cut off citizen access for turning in a loose dog.  Surrendering an owned pet dog had been virtually eliminated years ago.

Update 4-20-23:  The city is live streaming the ASAC meeting.

Tuesday, April 04, 2023

City Council Ignores, City Manager Insults Disability Champions

San Angelo's City Council approved the appointment of City Attorney Theresa James as Disability Coordinator by a unanimous vote.  Council ignored the recommendations of two citizen champions who've pushed the city to make San Angelo a more inviting place for citizens with disabilities.  

Councilman Tom Thompson attributed it to "personality conflicts," as opposed to legitimate concerns.  Neither citizen leader was allowed to refute Thompson's characterization in the meeting.

Council did not need to approve the item.  It could have set it aside and encouraged the parties to meet and work through concerns.  The city could've provided mediation support, if needed.  These leaders probably heard, "You pushed us to do better and we're pushing you aside."

Ignoring the disability community produced two local leaders, who rose up and pushed the city to do better.  Ignoring their feedback on the appointment of a disability coordinator is poor form and a reflection on city leaders' inability to listen.  That's not emotionally intelligent or smart governance.

Update:  Later in the meeting there was considerable interchange between citizens making public comment and members of City Council.  That was not allowed during the disability coordinator agenda item.

Council considered the appointment of an ADA Committee.  During that discussion City Manager Daniel Valenzuela derided the two local citizens who've pushed the city to do more for the disability community.  Valenzuela made it crystal clear the city's take is "you pushed us to do better and we're pushing you aside."  Sad.

Update 4-6-23:  One of San Angelo's disability champions asked how the city publicized its efforts to form an ADA committee?  She was insulted by both Councilman Tom Thompson and City Manager Daniel Valenzuela and not given the chance to respond to their allegations.  The City posted a news item on their website the day after the Council meeting requesting interested citizens contact the City Attorney.  I doubt they would have done this had that person not asked the question.

Update 4-18-23:  City Attorney and ADA Coordinator gave an update on ADA activities during the public comment portion of today's City Council meeting.

Update 4-23-23:  City ordinances state:

A city council member desiring to speak shall address the chair and, upon recognition by the presiding officer, shall confine discussion to the question under debate, avoid discussion of personalities and indecorous language, and refrain from personal attacks and verbal abuse. 

There is also language on the prohibition of harassment and one of those grounds is on the basis of disability. 

Update 7-19-23:  City Council issued a proclamation for July 26, 2023, to be designated as Americans with Disabilities Act Day.  The city's disability champions are in the picture with the Mayor.  

I hope they received an apology in between.