by Walker County News Today staff
The continuing issue of animal control within the city of Huntsville was on the agenda again at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. As Walker County News Today readers know, the City had contracted with the Rita B. Huff Humane Society for animal control services for years until last year. Those services consisted primarily of housing and, when necessary, quarantining animals picked up and brought in by the City’s Animal Control Officer.
Last November the Rita B. Huff notified the City that it would no longer provide these services. That notification came during negotiation for renewal of the city’s contract with the shelter. Even before the breakdown in negotiations there were reports that difficulties had emerged in the working relationship between personnel at Rita B Huff and the City.
The City conducted a check of surrounding counties but found no one interested in providing these services after it received notification from the Rita B. Huff. Last December the City Council took the extraordinary step of declaring an emergency, This enabled the city to bypass a number of state procurement regulations. The City’s Plan was to quickly select a design contractor and award a contract for the construction of a City owned and operated animal shelter.
As it turned out, even these emergency initiatives moved slowly. In the meantime, the City of Conroe came to the rescue last March and agreed to provide limited shelter services on an interim basis. It came to light at Tuesday’s meeting that this offer from Conroe came as a favor to Huntsville’s Chief of Police from the Police Chief in Conroe. In both cities animal control is a function housed in the Police Department. At the meeting Huntsville Mayor Andy Brauninger publicly thanked Conroe for its help in this situation.
The help from Conroe enabled the City Council to terminate the emergency declaration and it did so last May. That required the city staff to return to the more normal procurement process.
Apparently that process has not only continued to move slowly, but has also resulted in cost estimates considerably higher than originally anticipated. As a possible option city staff worked out a deal with Conroe to continue its interim services for a five-year period at a minimum cost of $200,000/year. That proposal was one of two alternatives presented to the Council Tuesday night. The other proposal was to proceed with the original plan for the City to build and operate its own shelter, even with the higher cost estimates. There was no mention of an option to investigate the possibility of returning to a satisfactory arrangement with the Rita B. Huff.
After considerable discussion the Council opted to temporarily delay a decision so that it could obtain more information and consider the matter further. The plan is to formally revisit the issue in January. The current temporary arrangement with Conroe will continue in the interim.