Burien likely to extend, increase controversial CARES animal services contract

King County animal services estimate almost twice proposed CARES contract

The Burien City Council appears ready to extend the animal control and services contract for the controversial Burien CARES group and increase funding by $50,000 annually.

With the two-year contract extension, CARES would also be required to implement several recommendations made in an audit by Denise McVicker, deputy director of the Tacoma, Pierce County Humane Society.

Two King County representatives appeared before the council on April 15 to answer questions about operations of the Regional Animal Services of King County (RASKC). Some CARES critics have suggested Burien return to contracting with King County for animal services. SeaTac and Tukwila contract with RASKC.

Sean Bouffiou, King County Records and Licensing finance administrator, estimated RASKC would charge Burien $418,000 per year minus pet licensing fees from the city. The net cost is pegged at $332,000 annually.

The proposed new Burien CARES contract is $170,000 annually. CARES has one animal control officer who covers the city and an animal shelter on Southwest 151st Street.

Dr. Gene Mueller, King County regional animal services manager, said RASKC has two animal control officers and a sergeant on duty at all times to cover the southern district that Burien would be a part of.

Besides Burien, the RASKC district would include SeaTac, Tukwila, North Highline, Skyway, Vashon Island, Enumclaw, Black Diamond, Kent, Covington and Maple Valley. Councilmember Joan McGilton noted the RASKC district covers about 1,100 square miles while Burien is about 7 square miles.

Mueller said RASKC also has a Kent shelter, veterinary clinic and licensing division.

Bouffiou said the cost estimate is figured 80 percent on usage and 20 percent on city population.

Burien management analyst Nhan Nguyen emphasized that Bouffiou’s estimate was based on the number of service calls in neighboring cities and the volume of calls from Burien when it was serviced by King County.

Even CARES supporters questioned the service call numbers provided by CARES. The nonprofit reported it handled 2,860 service calls just from Burien last year. On the other hand, RASKC reported it received 5,392 for the entire county.

CARES director Debra George said all calls are logged when the phone rings. She said calls for information are not counted as service calls.

King County’s Mueller said multiple calls about one animal are logged as just one service call.

The proposal calls for extending the CARES contract from May 30, 2014 to May 30, 2016, increasing the total cost form $120,000 annually to $170,000, allowing part of the payment to be made in an upfront lump payment to address immediate capital needs, increasing the amount annually by a cost of living adjustment equal to city staff but not to exceed 3 percent, and modifying the scope of work to remedy issued identified by McVicker.

The improvement recommendations include wearing goggles when handling cleaning chemicals, entering animal information into the system right away, removing cats only when necessary while cleaning cages, using fresh water as the primary method of cleaning instead of mopping and answering the phone as “Burien Animal Care and Control.”

Nguyen said part CARES would also pick up dead animals from roadways and vaccinate all animals that come into the shelter.

Lawmakers were evenly split April 15 on extending the contract. However, Councilmember Rose Clark, a staunch CARES supporter, was absent from the discussion.

Deputy Mayor Lucy Krakowiak said the contract should be put up for competitive bid like the Waste Management garbage service contract. She said King County has a professional staff that supports the animal control officers.

Councilmember McGilton admitted CARES is “ bit of a start-up” that “needs to clean up its act a bit more.” But she said a handful of Burien residents want King County animal services and cost is not an issue with them.

“When you look at the contract, you have to look at price,” McGilton said.

Councilmember Jack Block Jr. said the requirements for what CARES would do with the extra $50,000 per year are pretty vague. He called again for an increased effort to raise pet license revenue.

Councilmember Bob Edgar said he was concerned about an extension halfway through the contract period.

Councilmember Gerald Robison noted CARES’ only competitor for the contract, RASKC, is bidding much higher.

“In three years, we’ll see if anybody else wants to do it,” Robison added.

Mayor Brian Bennett said CARES opponents feared the McVicker audit would be a “whitewash” but he commended the staff for doing a good job on it.

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