Sahuarita second city to threaten to break ties with PACC - Tucson News Now

Sahuarita second city to threaten to break ties with PACC

SAHUARITA, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Sahuarita has become the second town in Pima County to threaten to pull out of the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with Pima Animal Care Center over costs and/or service.

Sahuarita, which in the past has generally accepted the terms of the IGA presented by the county for animal care services, has taken issue with the one proposed for the 2017-2018 fiscal year. 

The county asked for $88,200 for services next year but Sahuarita says it's willing to pay a flat fee of only $35,000.

The difference, it appears, is more about philosophy and policy than dollars. 

Five years ago, PACC adopted a stance which says it will "save any animal which can be saved."

In the past year, it has received a no-kill shelter designation, which means it saves 90 percent of the animals that come in to the center. Five years ago it was fewer than 50 percent, meaning the county euthanized 8,000 to 10,000 animals annually, sometimes more. 

The county never hid the fact it would be an expensive policy, but it was demanded by public opinion. This has been the first year where fiscal prudence on the part of some jurisdictions has clashed with the philosophy. 

Marana, for its part, saw its budget for animal care services grow from $10,000 in the 1980s to $240,000 in 2018.

While it first objected to cost, it said the reason it severed ties was because of service, although the service issues remain sparse. 

Sahuarita Town Manager Kelly Udall said he presented an alternative IGA, which more closely follows the animal control code that is in place in the town.

"We recognize our current IGA far exceeded what the town code suggested we do, told us to do," Udall said. "So we developed a new IGA."

The county replied with a letter late this afternoon in a letter saying it finds the town's position to be "unacceptable."

Letter by Tucson News Now on Scribd

Udall said if the county chose not to accept it, "the town would look for options, there is no doubt about that."

What those options are may be fairly limited.

Unlike Marana, which chose to fund its own animal care service with a $159,000 down payment, Sahuarita does not have the money for that but says it will look for a possible third party contract.

All of this is in the preliminary stage and no final decision will come until a vote by the full mayor and council.

That must come before the current IGA expires at the end of June.

At issue is also the time limit for financial responsibility for dogs and cats, which may be picked up in the town boundaries. 

The county says it takes an average of 11 days for an animal to be adopted. According to the IGA proposal, Sahuarita would only be responsible for the animal for five days, which is mandated by state law. 

What happens after that is still up in the air. But the county says it can't assume financial responsibility because it would be unfair to its other partners, Tucson and Oro Valley.

"It's clearly designed to shift costs from Sahuarita to the rest of our partners and we're not willing to do that," Huckelberry said. "Or its designed to euthanize animals and we're not going to do that."

Huckelberry said the shelter would likely be able to absorb the costs which combined, Marana and Sahurita, amount to only 3 1/2 percent of the nearly $9 million animal care budget. He says the county's position will not shift if the two cannot reach an agreement. 

"We are not going to return to the model that was in place five to 10 years ago which relies heavily on euthanasia," Huckelberry said. "That's not what we've chosen to do." 

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