By Jeanne Sager
MONTICELLO October 20, 2006 There’s no contract, but Sullivan County has a big bill from the SPCA.
The legislature declined the non-profit’s request to renew its $15,000 annual contract last year.
But at the most recent meeting of the legislature’s public safety committee, SPCA President Bonnie Swack walked in with a bill.
The number at the end? A total of $13,650 for the pick-up and care of animals at the behest of the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department.
According to an unidentified source, when the bill was itemized, the number was closer to $17,000 $2,000 higher than the annual county allotment prior to January.
Alexis Eggleton, spokeswoman for the legislature, said Thursday that the bill will have to be reviewed carefully by Public Safety Commissioner Dick Martinkovic as well as the Sheriff’s Department to verify dates and facts.
Eggleton confirmed there has been no allotment of funds for the SPCA and any such action would require a resolution to be passed by the legislature.
Swack spoke with the Democrat in April after delivering a bill for services called upon by the Sheriff’s Department.
She said the SPCA is called in when an animal will be left without care in case of an arrest by the department.
The same goes for the probation department if a parolee is pulled off the streets and their cat will be left alone, by law someone has to be called to care for it.
Swack said that costs the shelter money to pay staff, put gas in the SPCA vehicle and later feed and care for the animal.
But County Manager David Fanslau said he’s put the county’s audit department on notice not to pay the bill until everything can be reviewed.
If the bill is verified, Eggleton said the next hurdle is finding money to pay it as there was no allocation in this year’s budget for the SPCA or any other animal care services.
She confirmed the SPCA is charging the county as much as $180 for picking up one dog, with $150 boarding fees.
By comparison, Liberty Dog Control Officer Joanne Gerow said the intermunicipal agreement her department has with the towns of Bethel, Fallsburg, Rockland and Thompson calls for a $50 pick-up fee for an animal control call and just $15 a day for boarding.
The difference in fees is eye-opening to say the least for county officials.
“Certainly I don’t want to pay for a service that’s exponentially higher than it can be procured elsewhere,” Fanslau said.
If the SPCA is charging more, Fanslau said he wants to know why and whether it’s warranted.
Looking to the future, Fanslau said he wants the county to look at possibly putting its animal care service out for competitive bidding.
Any service provided, he said, should be approved by the legislature and a standing contract should be in place.
“Without a contract, there’s no controls as what you’re going to be charged and what you’re going to pay,” he explained.
“But as for this bill, it’s certainly not going to be a rubber stamp, certainly it’s not just going to be paid,” he noted.
Plans are also moving ahead to make some changes before the new budget season.
“We’re exploring other options [for animal care],” said Undersheriff Eric Chaboty, declining to comment further on the facts of the case.