After initially directing city staff to go in the direction of issuing certificates of obligation for the proposed new Animal Control facility on April 6, the Copperas Cove City Council did a 180 and decided it was best to send the issue to voters.
The council has until August to finalize the details to order the bond issue for the November election, City Manager Ryan Haverlah said after Tuesday’s meeting.
“There are no guarantees,” Haverlah said.
In the final meeting before receiving the proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2021-2022, the council was discussing the long-range debt calendar and the debt it wants to issue for 2021.
Among the items was the Animal Control facility that comes with a price tag just shy of $5 million.
Tuesday’s discussion, at times, became impassioned, as all council members voiced concerns about the $5 million, with Mayor Bradi Diaz pleading with the council to include it this year because of the public health aspect.
“The facility that was presented is a facility that’s needed in animal control these days,” Diaz said after Councilman Dan Yancey expressed his concerns first. “It has to be ventilated, to not only protect the animals, but to protect the people that work there, the people that visit there and the public that go in and out of there.”
Diaz added that if the council puts it off, it will continue to get more expensive.
One of Yancey’s main concerns was adding kennels that would also help with the adoption of the animals.
“I do think, at the end of the day — my standpoint — government does not need to be in the animal adoption business; that needs to be taken on by a private enterprise,” Yancey said. “We are in the animal control business.”
Councilman Jay Manning also believes the price tag shouldn’t matter, since he believes the city has more important things to spend money on.
“I think we need to remove the animals from the streets. That is our mission, that’s what our goal should be, that’s what we should be doing,” Manning said.
“Pick them up and kill them?” Diaz asked him.
“If you want to put it that way, yes,” Manning said.
Manning clarified his comments saying that if after a reasonable amount of time no one claims or adopts an animal, they should be euthanized.
All of the council members, including Yancey, who were present acknowledged that something needs to be done with the current facility, with many of them suggesting to make renovations to the current facility.
Councilman Fred Chavez was not present at the meeting.
Councilwomen Dianne Campbell and Vonya Hart both acknowledged that the lack of proper ventilation can be noticed when one walks into the current facility.
“It doesn’t feel healthy when I go in there — for our employees — and I don’t like that, and I think it needs to change, but I don’t think we can do it when I consider everything that we have staring at us on the budget,” Campbell said.
“I’ve done the tour over there at the animal shelter, and when you’re in there ... it’s not very well ventilated,” Hart said. “I don’t like the fact that we have sick cats with cats that aren’t.”
Hart’s main concern with the plan presented in April was the price.
Deputy Police Chief Bryan Wyers, who has been tasked with heading up the project since 2016, spoke with audible emotion in his voice when he addressed the council.
“I would love to tear a couple kennels down and build something up and say that’s going to be the fix, but I can’t say that,” Wyers said. “I’ve had experts that have told me that’s not the answer.”
Wyers pleaded for “clear direction” from the council.
After Wyers’ testimony, the council began to shift gears and ask that the architect rework the project without the proposed ventilation system. A departure from that system would drop the cost of the project by about $200,000.
Since the council has shifted direction on the proposed project, the $5 million will not be part of the operating budget and will lower the city’s expenditures from debt payments.
If the item is placed on the November ballot and is passed, it will require a budget amendment some time in the future, Haverlah said.
To view the council’s full discussion on the topic, go to the city’s YouTube page. The conversation begins around the 1:23:30 mark of the video for Tuesday’s meeting.