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Nov 18, 2009 1:37 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town working out terms for animal shelter privatization

Nov 18, 2009 1:37 PM

The Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation has agreed to a list of 15 terms set by town officials as part of a deal to allow the foundation to assume operation of the town’s animal shelter in 2010, Assistant Town Attorney Joseph Burke said Tuesday.

The foundation and the town must now incorporate the terms into a proposed three-year contract, which is expected to be considered by the Town Board as early as December 8.

Under the terms, the town will pay $200,000 to help fund the shelter in 2010, $250,000 in 2011, and $300,000 in 2012. To formally set aside funding for next year, Mr. Burke said, the board will vote to amend the 2010 budget on November 20.

Both sides are working together to reach a final contract, he said. 
“There seem to be no deal-breakers. 
It seems like this deal is moving ahead.”

In trying to jettison costs and save the town money, Town Supervisor Linda Kabot, in her proposed 2010 budget, axed all direct appropriations to the shelter next year. Ms. Kabot has said the town could not continue to bankroll the shelter, which cost $1 million this year to operate. Ms. Kabot has said that she set aside $200,000 in next year’s budget, anticipating a privatization deal.

If the board approves the contract, the foundation would pick up the remaining shelter operation costs after taking over management of it on January 1, 2010.

A main focus of the terms is to ensure the town will still be complying with state animal control laws after the foundation takes charge. For instance, the foundation will be required to accept lost, strayed or homeless animals and animals seized by town Animal Control officers.

The terms, however, do not address whether the shelter will continue to accept owner-surrendered animals, which is what the shelter’s policy has been before it placed a moratorium on surrenders in October. Mr. Burke said it will be the foundation’s decision as to what animals they choose to accept, but he said the foundation is likely to continue accepting surrenders.

“We’re going to leave that up to the foundation as far as whether or not they are going to accept [surrenders],” Mr. Burke said. “I believe they intend on offering that as well.”

The terms also do not address what will happen to the more than 100 cats and 30 dogs currently at the shelter after January 1, 2010. Mr. Burke said no animals will be euthanized as a result of the transition.

“I believe that the contract might have to speak to that,” he said. “I think that there will be a contract that will require the foundation to shelter the animals that are currently there.”

The terms state that the foundation will have a system to assess the behavior and temperament of dogs before they are adopted. Mr. Burke said that system will likely include a behavior assessment committee like the one currently used to evaluate the adoptability of dogs. Animal Control Supervisor and Shelter Supervisor Donald Bambrick, who will remain a town employee under the deal, is likely to sit on that committee, Mr. Burke said.

“The town would have some sort of a role in determining adoptability of a dog,” Mr. Burke said.

The deal calls for the town’s Animal Control officers to move to the shelter, and for existing shelter employees to get a chance to continue working at the shelter, although they are not guaranteed positions. The foundation will employ at least 12 full-time employees and offer an “equal or greater” benefits package than that offered by the town, according to the deal.

The foundation will also have the authority to set its own fees for services, such as adoption.

Mr. Burke said there has been no talk of what will happen to the shelter after 2012, when the foundation’s contract expires. The town could renew the contract or choose to resume control of the shelter, Mr. Burke said.

A foundation spokeswoman was 
not immediately available for comment.

“There really has not been much of a discussion beyond year three, at this point,” Mr. Burke said. “We’re trying to finalize the terms of this contract and make the transition as smooth as possible. January 1 will be here before you know it.”

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Sincere and heartfelt appreciation for Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation and the selfless and very generous Susan Allen. Clearly these people have a vision - so let's try to not harp on them too much about 3 years from now. They have their work cut out for them in the present. Best of luck and again - thank you for your hard work and kind spirits.
By pupdaddy (12), North Sea on Nov 17, 09 10:12 AM
Good news for now.
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on Nov 17, 09 11:46 AM
I'm grateful that compassionate private citizens have volunteered to preserve this facility, but it is shameful of the Town Board to cut funding for the shelter while it allows millions to be budgeted annually for police department patronage.

The Town Animal Shelter is an essential public service. It should never have been slated for closure.
By highhatsize (3886), East Quogue on Nov 17, 09 12:25 PM
Thank you to all who made this possible , especially Susan Allen .
By PrivateerMatt (390), Weesuck Creek , EQ on Nov 17, 09 2:23 PM
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