The city of Lompoc will continue outsourcing animal services at Santa Barbara County after city council members voted 4-1 sign a five-year agreement despite the rising costs associated with these services.
The decision, however, does not appear to be long-term.
Council members gave city staff six months (by Jan. 17, 2023) to come up with other options, including cost estimates for repairing the current shelter, building a again with ARPA funds or obtaining new contracts.
Councilor Gilda Cordova cast the dissenting vote during the June 21st council meeting and strongly opposed caving in to a tight July 1 deadline that required the city to sign a five-year contract — or risk losing its animal services.
Instead, Cordova suggested pursuing an extension of the county’s deadline while continuing to explore other options before agreeing to pay $1,735,000 over the next five years, or about $347,000 per year. .
Backed by City Councilman Victor Vega, Cordova urged stronger guidance from city staff and suggested the money would be better spent bringing a full-service shelter back to Lompoc.
Since the county’s closure of the Lompoc Animal Center La PAWS, 1501 W. Central Ave., residents have been forced to travel to the county’s Santa Maria facility for shelter services. Access to other services is limited to the centre.
“I don’t consider these options as options because we were given these ‘options’ at the last meeting in June when we are a week and a half away from having to make a decision on this and sign a five-year contract,” Cordova said.
Options presented by city staff, which Acting Mayor Jeremy Ball said lacked the data points needed to make a more informed decision, included contracting with other providers for the same services, performing ‘a cost analysis to become fully self-sufficient, adopting a hybrid model where the city would contract with the county only for accommodation services while providing all other services on its own – or a combination of All the foregoing.
While City Attorney Jeff Malawy said it was possible to walk away from the deal to seek an extension, it posed a legal risk to the city if the county decided not to grant an extension.
Mayor Jenelle Osborne resigned herself to the fact and assured council members that maintaining services was what was most important “while we work it out”.
“If nothing else, I disagree with the way the county has handled this and I disagree with the level of service we’re getting, but I think what we’ve received this evening is a window,” Osborne said. “We know we have five years to come up with another plan – hopefully we can do that in a year or two. And we know exactly what it will cost to get out if it has to be.”
While no penalty will be imposed if the city decides to terminate the new deal early, Lompoc’s senior administrative analyst Erin Keller said there will still be a cost for exiting early – $27,800, or $5,560 over five years.
She explained that the balance to be covered upon termination of the agreement represented general funds the county would no longer need to subsidize animal services in Lompoc.
Under the new agreement, the services provided to the city by the county do not change and will continue to include animal housing at its Santa Maria facility, field services, rabies control, dog hearings vicious and restricted and licensing and permitting services for animals.
Keller credited local nonprofits – Companion Animal Placement Assistance (ACAP), Shadow fund, 4 Paws CARE, K-9 Buddies – which has stepped up, especially during the COVID crisis, to provide vital animal services to the community. These covered services include helping pet owners pay veterinary bills, providing pet food, training services, collars and other veterinary needs, and conducting clinics. vaccination and adoption, she said. She also noted that three of the city’s four veterinarians provide pet licenses.
Keller reported messaging discrepancies when she called as a client of the Lompoc shelter and recommended members of the public call 805-934-6119, ext, instead. 7, to have someone live during business hours (Monday-Friday 9am-4:45pm; Saturday 10am-4pm; Sunday closed.
His report further painted a picture of faulty service in Lompoc, with the collection of dead animals remaining “low on their list of priorities” despite it being a service that the county s is committed to providing.
Members of the Lompoc City Council on Monday asked city staff to begin researching alternatives to contracting with Santa Barbara County for animal services after they got a glimpse of the projected cost hike for that service. .
Keller noted that stray animal housing services also continue to fall short in Lompoc. For example, a dog found without a microchip must either be transported to one of the two low-capacity shelters or have the Good Samaritan keep the stray until Animal Control can retrieve it within two days. Pets found with microchips are extensively handled by local veterinarians who can identify the animal and reunite it with its owners, Keller said.
“The community wants the Lompoc shelter to be open,” she added.
During public comment, community members called in, showed up and spoke out in favor of returning animal services to Lompoc.
Local resident Kathy Howard has expressed her frustration at a tired issue she fears will never be resolved.
“It bothers me a lot to hear this subject come up again and again, and there’s no solution,” she said. “Instead of trying to solve it here, maybe you should check out towns comparable to Lompoc – and Carpinteria isn’t one of them. I don’t want to see it back on the agenda in three or five years. “
Longtime resident Nik Nikolenko, “a proud owner of cats and dogs,” called for a better budget decision.
“It’s too bad that we pay the county $300,000 a year for services that aren’t in our community. That money can be spent on repairs needed in our own facility – the facility we have here in our community,” he said. “In a community of nearly 50,000 people, we need our own animal sanctuary.”
At the top of the meeting, it was announced that county officials would not be in attendance due to a Animal services advisory meeting taking place concurrently, however, Director of Public Health Van Do-Reynoso also called during public comments to express her willingness on behalf of the county to address concerns about service quality.
“I apologize for the perception that we are not doing a good job at Lompoc,” she said. “Yes, we can certainly improve our services, however, I want to correct the fact that we provide licenses on Tuesday, we do adoptions – although this is from Santa Maria.”
Do-Reynoso admitted the county continues to face issues with its lagging volunteer program and deficient facilities in Lompoc, but assured the board that rebuilding the volunteer program and repairing facilities to ensure that Lompoc had its own viable shelter were high priorities.
She suggested that she and her team schedule a time to showcase her services “and resolve the matter with your counsel.”
Local customers are advised to be prepared for possible power outage events in the town of Lompoc during the fire season.
In an effort to address drug overdose deaths in Lompoc and throughout Santa Barbara County, the Lompoc Valley Medical Center the emergency department distributes free doses of Naloxone nasal spray – commonly known as Narcan – as part of the California Department of Health Care Services’ Naloxone program.
Four new principals and five deans have been tapped to join the school administrators of the Lompoc Unified School District for the upcoming school year.
Lisa André covers lifestyle and local news for Santa Ynez Valley News and Lompoc Record, editions of the Santa Maria Times.