Tuesday, May 3, 2011

New animal shelter moving forward in ‘very frustrating process'

May 01, 2011 12:22:00 AM
By Ryan McCarthy/Appeal-Democrat

Efforts by Sutter County, Yuba City and Live Oak to build a $4.5 million animal shelter continue in what the mayor of Yuba City calls a "very frustrating process."

"We have to be moving forward," John Dukes said Friday. "Hopefully we can do it as a region."

Dukes' comment comes after the latest black eye delivered to the beleaguered existing shelter in the form of a Sutter County grand jury report recommending an investigation by the Sheriff's Department into alleged violations of state law. The panel called the shelter near the county airport at 102 Second St. in Yuba City filthy and cites an ongoing severe rat infestation.

Representatives of the three local government entities will get together in a closed-door meeting Wednesday at Yuba City City Hall to discuss the report.

Along with the allegedly filthy conditions and rat infestation, the grand jury claims Sutter County management failed to follow recommendations in a consultant's $55,775 shelter review in 2007 and that the money spent for the review was wasted.

Though the county Board of Supervisors will draw up a formal response to the grand jury report, the county has already taken issue with some of the findings. County officials said that 33 of the 56 recommendations in the 2007 review were implemented and that the rat infestation is now under control. Sutter County last November was fined $3,000 by the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health for violations at the shelter, including the rat infestation.

Dukes said of the grand jury report: "I pretty much agree."

Norma Rubio, executive director of the Yuba-Sutter Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said she agreed with a grand jury recommendation to phase out use of jail inmate-trusty labor and institute an aggressive volunteer program.

Rubio also said that animals at the shelter often get ill there because disease spreads quickly at the site. Improved sanitation at the shelter should be a priority, she said.

Jim Goodwin, city manager for Live Oak, said the municipality budgeted $83,000 this fiscal year for its contract with Sutter County to provide animal control services.

Opened in 1986, the shelter has gradually become overwhelmed by swelling numbers of abandoned dogs, cats and other pets, a byproduct of Yuba City's growth.

A design contract for a new 10,000-square-foot shelter won county approval in 2009, but the project stalled as local government budgets became strained. Yuba City, projected to pay two-thirds of the new shelter's price tag, sought more control over the design and budget.

The county Board of Supervisors last December approved a site for a new shelter on nearby Garden Highway.

Falling tax revenues forced the county to lay off two animal control employees at year's end.


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