While she isn’t mentioned by name, District 6 McHenry County Board candidate Ersel Schuster’s proposal to look at privatizing the Animal Control function received much discussion at the February 10th meeting of the Public Health & Human Services Committee meeting.
The minutes of that part of the meeting follow:
Dave and Arline Shouldice joined the committee members and informed them they are long term volunteers at Animal Control.
They have heard there are rumors that the County wants to close and privatize Animal Control in order to save money.
They informed the committee members that this facility has the best volunteer network in the County and many of them have assisted at the facility for over six years, at least three to four days a week.
They stated this is not just a building but is a place where animal adoptions occur and where the volunteers come in daily to walk dogs and assist with the animals.
The committee members were informed the volunteers received phone calls on Friday informing them of
the desire to close the facility.
The committee members were informed that there are kids from a baseball team that wants to come into
Animal Control to volunteer their services.
These kids showed up and brought in wheel barrow’s full of food to donate to the facility.
There are handicapped individuals that come in to help assist with all aspects of the facility.
It was stated that they have heard that everyone seems to see this as a bad facility.
They stated this is not the case.
In the past there were a couple of bad officers that no longer work there.
One of the workers made a mistake and paid with the loss of their job.
This officer used to drive around looking for the owners of lost pets, which was beyond the scope of their duties.
The committee members were reminded they have a small number of staff members that are required to cover the whole county, which is huge area.
This is also one of the fastest growing counties there is in the State. [This population growth statement is, of course, false. McHenry County’s population is down from the 2010 Census figures. The county, however, is one of the biggest in Illinois.]
These officers are charged with rescuing burned and beaten dogs and animals that have been abandoned.
They stated you wouldn’t believe the condition of some of the animals that are brought in.
They wish some of the County Board members could see the conditions the staff members are required to work under.
Ms. Anna May Miller, Vice Chairman stated that she spoke with Chairman McCann and they are unsure where the rumors regarding Animal Control are coming from.
Mr. [Michael] Hill, Public Health Administrator stated that as far as he knows no one is looking to do away with Animal Control.
Mr. [Peter] Austin stated that from a County perspective, each year all the departments are required to review their services in order to determine if there are areas the County could save some money, though there are not conversations taking place regarding the elimination of Animal Control.
It was stated there has been conversations by someone running for the County Board [Ersel Schuster] that has stated the County should get rid of this facility in order to save the County some money, though there is nothing on the table at this time.
Ms. [Donna] Kurtz stated she had understood that the County has to have an Animal Control facility.
The committee members were informed, they have to provide licensing and an Animal Control Administrator.
Ms. Kurtz stated from a public health standpoint, she would fight to keep Animal Control, as is.
She stated she does not believe anyone on this board has indicated that Animal Control should be eliminated.
Mr. [Chuck] Wheeler stated that all the volunteers and the services they provide have been wonderful.
He informed the committee members that he has never purchased a dog but instead always obtained rescue
He noted there are too many issues with the puppy mills and pet stores so he only adopts rescue animals.
He stated the volunteers need to be recognized for the services they provide.
He stated the volunteers provide an efficient way to reduce costs at the facility.
Valorie Luebke joined the committee and stated that she works with the cats at the facility and informed the committee members that the County has a gem of a facility in Animal Control.
She stated they have a Facebook page that has over 8,000 members.
The facility has a 4.8 star rating, out of 5.
There was only one person that provided one star, though they did not provide any comments why.
She stated that they have had only one cat returned to the facility in the past five years and that was because of allergies.
Ms. Miller stated she does remember the issues of the old facility and they have come a long way since that time.
Ms. Luebke stated she was one of the first volunteers after the changes occurred and she has seen
a tremendous turnaround at the facility from what occurred in the past.
In the past, it was very hard to be a volunteer and they are now very involved.
Concern was voiced that if the facility was privatized, the animals would be euthanized and the
employees at the facility would lose their jobs.
Ms. Luebke questioned what would happen if there were no animal control officers to address the public animal issues?
She stated this is not an easy job and asked they not close the facility as the animals as well as people would suffer.
Mr. Hill informed the committee members and the Public Health and Human Services Committee members that there has not been any discussions with anyone regarding doing away with Animal Control.
An Ad Hoc committee was formed to look at the issues at Animal Control.
The group will provide a report to the Board of Health in the near future.
It was stated there is a need for additional training and more customer service at the facility.
There are no RFP’s issued for any services at Animal Control.
If an RFP had been issued, the public could see that on the County’s website.
There was a RFP posted approximately six years ago in an attempt to partner with an agency to assist with the animal adoptions.
The RFP was not issued for privatizing the agency.
They wanted to be able to transfer the animals to another agency to assist with the adoptions. At that time, no bids were received on the RFP.
Mr. Austin informed the public that the County Board has a plan that challenges every department to look at ways to reduce costs.
Security in the Administration facility is an example where services are being provided by a private vendor.
They constantly challenge staff to provide services in the most cost effective way possible.
Vice Chairman Miller stated the members of the public need to share with their policy makers, the issues and or services they are willing to support.
Mr. Richard Hilton joined the committee members and informed them he was not there as a volunteer but
as a member of the public that uses Animal Control services.
He informed the committee members that he has adopted three animals from the facility and stated that Animal Control provides much better services than services being provided by any of the other agencies out there.
He stated this is a great facility and believes the agency should be maintained as a cost benefit to the community.