While the county's request that Menlo Park help pay for a new animal control facility finally got approved by the City Council last night (May 6), it could be a temporary state of affairs.
The 5-0 vote came with a caveat: The city intends to look around to see whether other contractors, such as the Palo Alto Humane Society or the Silicon Valley Animal Control Authority, could provide the same services for less.
"It would've been better if you'd brought us into this process a lot earlier," Mayor Ray Mueller commented, addressing project representatives at the meeting. "You probably would've had an easier time with this council."
Mr. Mueller said an earlier request could have led the city to help find private donors, for example. During the meeting, project representatives said private funding wasn't explored given the lack of public relations appeal of a facility that will house dangerous and sick animals.
Vice Mayor Cat Carlton said she was aware of at least one private organization that funds this type of project.
San Mateo County plans to replace a 60-year-old animal-holding facility on Airport Boulevard in San Mateo with a new, smaller one estimated to cost between $15.1 million and $20.2 million. The county contracts with the Peninsula Humane Society for facility operations, and in turn the 20 cities and towns contract for services.
The county asked the cities and towns that use the services to contribute towards the cost of the new facility. The agreement is structured in the form of a 30-year lease, with interest-free payments adjusted each year and calculated based on the average frequency of shelter use and the population of each participating jurisdiction.
Menlo Park was the last of 20 Peninsula jurisdictions to reach a decision; the others have approved the funding. Under the terms of its agreement, Menlo Park will pay $23,728 to $31,769 annually toward the new facility. Woodside, Portola Valley and Atherton will contribute $3,000 to $13,111 annually.
Should Menlo Park abandon the contract, there is no financial penalty, but the city must give one year's notice, according to project representatives. Those remaining under contract would have to pick up the extra cost if other jurisdictions pull out, but would also have the option to extend the lease to level out the increase.