Council weighs in on animal shelter issue
Newberg Animal Shelter Friends members occupied about half of the chairs at the Jan. 2 Newberg City Council meeting to air their concerns about the possible sale of the facility to help fund the city's upgrade to its communications equipment through the Washington County Consolidated Communications Agency (WCCCA).
Although the issue was not on the agenda, one NASF representative spoke to remind the council of the group's past efforts, fundraising and agreed-upon contracts with the city to keep the shelter on its feet and serve animals in need.
No decisions have been made regarding the sale of the shelter, although the city has commissioned an appraisal and will review the numbers to determine if a sale is feasible.
Councilor Stephen McKinney addressed the issue to show his support for the shelter and demonstrate his understanding of the frustration that NASF members and citizens have expressed to the council.
"You and the committee have my full support in this regard," he said. "I think that this is an ill-founded plan to sell the animal shelter. If the animal shelter is a part of the 9-1-1 shortfall, the 9-1-1 shortfall was noted long before the discussion to sell the shelter ever became a topic."
McKinney added that the city and the council failed by not considering the WCCCA communications upgrade in a different light.
"It should have been a … decision coupled with the (Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue) annexation with the fire department and the shortfall that could have been really anticipated with the passing of the charter amendment where that $3.1 million should have been a major budget consideration rather than a $1.88 (reduction) to the public there," he added.
The animal shelter has faced a rocky road in the past with a small budget while the animals were housed in an inadequate building on South Blaine Street that was past its useful life. Darlyn Adams started an effort in the 1990s to raise funds and build a new building.
By April 2013, Adams and the NASF had raised a considerable amount of funds, but not quite enough to construct a new building. The city and the NASF came to an agreement to build the shelter on property the city had purchased for expansion of its wastewater treatment plant. The city also kicked in an additional $200,000 to complete the building and agreed to about $9,200 in subsidizes for the shelter. Subsidies included charging only $1 a year for the lease, paying utilities and maintaining the outside of the new building and landscaping.
At this point the city encouraged the NASF to step up and run the shelter. In the meantime, the city had been assisting volunteers in drawing awareness to the shelter and continued its animal control officer position in the Newberg-Dundee Police Department. However, budget cutbacks led to the elimination of the animal control officer and NASF was charged with filling the void.
The lease on the building is up for renewal in June. The contract agreement allows six months for the parties to agree to enter into negotiations for an extension or renewal of the lease prior to the final lease date.
City Manager Joe Hannon explained during the council meeting the reasoning behind selling both the shelter and the Butler property across First Street from city hall.
"First and foremost is what this is about is that our city, not unlike other cities, is constrained by how much property taxes and fees that we can collect," he said. "We do not have sufficient funds within the city now or in the foreseeable future to do one very major project and that's upgrading our communication system.
"We're part of a system that allows us to use a 900 megahertz system. What it does it allows us to communicate with the rest of the metro area, the rest of the state for our police and by extension to fire. In order to do that, we are on that system now.
"Tonight, heaven forbid we had a Cascadia (earthquake) or something like that and we needed to communicate with others across the state to bring in some help here. Our police and our city can communicate with others. In order for us to continue in that system we need to upgrade what we have right now to the tune of $3.1 million. There (are) no taxes, no reserve there and we have to come up with that $3.1 million."
Hannon responded to McKinney's concern on how the city and council failed the shelter by not looking at the budget in a different light. He explained that voters were clear they wanted the city's taxing rate to be reduced $1.88 per $1,000 of assessed value to offset the taxes that TVF&R would be assessing as part of the annexation of the city into the fire district.
"That does not leave any funds. It does not give us an option to say, 'Let's keep the money and go for a communications upgrade,' " he said.