Bellevue likely to stick with county animal control

Bellevue Monday indicated it will stick with King County animal control - For now.

The Bellevue City Council directed staff to negotiate a new 3-year contract with the county for animal control services, with a final vote scheduled in June. Councilmembers showed interest in Bellevue beginning to prepare proposals to opt for a sub-regional model that would see the city hire its own animal control officers and include four or five other Eastside cities. If Bellevue goes its own way in the future, a plan would be developed for the 2015-16 budget, just before the county contract runs out.

Several councilmembers wanted to leave the county umbrella this year, but it simply wasn't feasible to prepare to open a new service so quickly.

"The idea of getting to a sub-regional model eventually is the way to go, at the same time however, cities are not speed boats they are aircraft carries, and they need time to work on things," said Councilmember Kevin Wallace.

The cities of Kirkland and Shoreline, possible partners with Bellevue in a new model, decided recently to extend their contracts with King County.

As contract negotiations progressed, a new variable began to come up in conversation that made cities more likely to opt in, a possible countywide levy to pay for animal services.

Sheida Sahandy, of the city manager's office, said talk of a levy to pay for animal control services has increased throughout negotiations. This would in essence, create a situation in which the city would pay for the services, and then the residents would pay increased property tax for the same services.

No levy proposal has been made, city officials said, but the topic has been more prevalent in recent weeks.

This development upset many of the council members and the city staff. The decision to stay with the county appeared to come as much from the desire to be a part of negotiations of a potential levy, as the efficacy of the service itself.

"The county either needs to find a role to play in the region or it needs to devolve out of the service," said Councilmember John Chelminiak. "The answer is not a levy, it just isn't."

Those in favor of leaving the county system argued that a new model would be cheaper, and better for animals. According to comparative figures developed by the city of Bellevue, the county was able to save and release 83 percent of animals, while the Seattle Humane Society, which would provide shelter for Bellevue, saved nearly 96 percent.

Over the three-year contract, Bellevue would be projected to spend $102,000 in costs for the contract, compared with $219,000 in the county model. But, one-time start-up costs of more than $150,000 level the playing field of cost.

For its part, the county has worked to give the city a better deal. One of the most significant changes comes in the assurance that city costs will be kept even at 2013 levels over the life of the contract.

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