UPDATE: Janesville City Council sets aside $125,000 for animal control services

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Jake Magee
Thursday, October 26, 2017

JANESVILLE—The Janesville City Council decided Wednesday night to set aside $125,000 for animal control services, but it's not yet clear what agency will get the contract.

The city had set aside $62,500 for animal control services, which is half of what the city has paid the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin annually since 2014.

By moving money around, the council found enough in the 2018 budget to afford animal control services.

The city will be issuing a request for proposals to determine if any other agencies are interested in providing animal control services.

Budget items the council changed include eliminating $9,000 in expenses by making Janesville Youth Sports Complex users pay for utilities and adding an estimated $10,000 in revenue by promoting dog and cat licensing. The approximately $58,000 deficit will be covered by the applied fund balance, which is basically the city's savings account.

Councilman Jens Jorgensen was the only member to vote in favor of cutting $50,000 in expenses set aside for City Hall personnel policy revisions and IT system upgrades—two items city employees indicated in a survey they wanted.

Besides paying the full amount or negotiating for a lower amount with the humane society, police Chief Dave Moore said the city could:

--Issue a request for proposals for vendors that could provide animal control services

--Research a possible intergovernmental agreement with other municipalities for such services

--Respond to animal-related emergencies only

Several council members said the city should issue a request for proposals soon to start preparing for the 2019 budget in hopes of finding a cheaper service. It's too late in this year's budgeting process to do so now, they said.

City Manager Mark Freitag said it is not too late, saying the city could issue a request for proposals as early as next week.

Councilwoman Sue Conley said she had expected that research to have been done before Wednesday's meeting.

Councilman Jim Farrell at the last budget meeting asked if it'd be better to pay the society per stray animal taken in rather than a flat fee.

Moore said the flat fee of $125,000 is preferable. The society takes in about 1,000 strays a year. At about $150 in expenses per stray, paying on a case-by-case basis would cost about $150,000, officials said.

In August, city staff said cutting in half its $125,000 contract with the society would provide the city enough extra money to hire another police officer in 2018.

Janesville City Council President Doug Marklein said at the time an extra police officer was a "no brainer" when compared to animal control services.

A month later, Janesville officials found out the state will grant the city in 2018 an extra $583,000 a year for five years. Officials proposed spending the money on two extra police officers and three extra firefighters, among other things.

Still, until Wednesday's meeting, no official proposed restoring the proposed $62,500 cut to the society.

That didn't sit well with about a dozen residents who showed up at the council's regular Monday meeting and implored the council to fully fund the society.

"Anything else is unconscionable," said resident Sharon Homernik.

Without animal control services in Janesville, pet owners would be unable to reunite with lost animals, strays would run loose across the city and diseases could spread, residents said.

Society Executive Director Brett Frazier said the humane society would be unable to provide full animal control services for the $62,500 the city was proposing. In his discussions with police Chief Dave Moore, it became apparent the society would accept nothing less than $125,000 for the current level of service, City Manager Mark Freitag said.

"I think we have a very valuable partnership with them right now," Jorgensen said after proposing to allocate the full $125,000 to animal control. "I'd hate to lose that."

Note: This story was changed at 3:09 p.m. Oct. 26, 2017, to reflect the following correction:

Humane society not guaranteed contract

A story on Page 1A on Thursday incorrectly reported the Janesville City Council decided to pay $125,000 to the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin for animal control services in 2018.

The council decided to set aside $125,000 for animal control services but did not decide what agency will be providing that service.

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