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City renews animal contract for one year

The Oak Harbor City Council approved a one-year contract extension with the Whidbey Animals’ Improvement Foundation earlier this month.

Council members Bob Severs, Rick Almberg, Eric Gerber, Danny Paggao, Jim Campbell and Beth Munns voted in favor of the contract and Councilman Jim Palmer abstained.

The contract, originally set for the Dec. 1 consent agenda, was delayed until the Dec. 15 meeting as an action item so the agreement could be discussed in detail with WAIF Executive Director Stephen Paysse, Shelter Manager Shari Bibich and Kit Maret, longtime board member.

Norm McCrea of Oak Harbor attended the meeting to speak as a WAIF ally.

“I just want to reiterate what a gem you have in WAIF,” he said. “You get the biggest bang for your buck with WAIF.”

The contract doesn’t come close to reimbursing the shelter for its actual services, Maret said.

“Our direct costs and expenses are $143,000,” she said. “We make up the difference by fundraising and volunteer hours.”

The 2010 WAIF contract is for nearly $85,000

The ensuing discussion produced some questions, including one from Councilman Bob Severns about WAIF’s anticipated budget for 2011.

“I didn’t have a question until I heard it really cost $143,000,” he said. “What about next year?”

Paysse said he doesn’t anticipate a request for more money. Instead, he’ll seek additional grant money and cut hours before requesting more funds.

In the meantime, it’s the donations that keep them going, he said.

“Our objective is to not have animals, to find them all homes,” he said. “We are one of the most progressive shelters in the United States, for a fact.”

Councilman Rick Almberg was more interested in the root of the problem. Despite WAIF’s ability to find homes for lost and unwanted dogs and cats, why do these animals continue to find their way into the shelter system, he asked Oak Harbor Police Chief Rick Wallace.

“Do we have strict enough fines for people who abandon animals?” he queried.

It’s very difficult to determine the owner of stray animals, Wallace said, and even more difficult to return them.

“We are transitioning from more warnings and less enforcement to more enforcement and less warnings,” he said. “I think we need to be more aggressive in enforcing the laws on the books.”

City officials and WAIF first agreed to a yearly animal shelter services contract in 2005, which has been renewed every year since then.

With the contract renewed, the city of Oak Harbor will make a monthly payment of $7,083.33 to WAIF, in addition to $30 per after-hour or holiday call, although WAIF has never charged for after-hour or holiday calls.

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