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Santa Maria could end agreement with County Animal Services as it looks to save money

Posted at 5:49 PM, Mar 18, 2019

The City of Santa Maria is considering contracting out animal control and animal sheltering services in an effort to save money.

The potential companies would have to fit the demands that have been filled by Santa Barbara County Animal Services for several years.

The county says in the 2017 to 2018 fiscal year, Animal Services officers responded to more than 5,000 calls in Santa Maria alone.

Deciding to potentially change contracts was a move the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department says came by surprise.

“We had anticipated this may be coming down the pipeline but we were a little surprised when it was actually proposed,” said Paige Batson, Interim Santa Barbara County Community Health Deputy Director.

Lompoc proposed a similar plan in 2017 but had difficulty finding a provider for a lower price than the county.

“We have the facilities, we have the trained staff, so we are definitely at an advantage and we’ve been providing great work,” Batson said.

The contract with Santa Barbara County Animal Services for the 2019-2020 year will cost around $800,000 and it could increase in the coming years.

The city is looking to cut that amount by at least $200,000.

“When you have a vendor, in this case it’s the county but it could be any vendor that pretty much has you at their mercy for providing a particular service, it’s difficult to find the best financial deal for the city, so that’s one of the reasons why we’re out there,” explained Alex Posada, Director of Recreation and Parks for the City of Santa Maria.

Posada says the city could use several different businesses and possibly take animal control in-house by training city employees.

“It may be very well that the information we get may not support a change and that’s fine too, but it’s our responsibility to go out and find the best deal for the Santa Maria taxpayer,” Posada said.

The county hopes that regardless of what happens, the care for the animals stays the same.

“All these animals deserve to have the right care at the right time and to be done so in a humane matter and so that’s my goal for the outcome,” Batson said.

Those who are interested in submitting their business plans for this new endeavor are asked to do so by Friday.

The City of Santa Maria says once the window for proposals closes, the city council could visit this topic in four to six weeks with it possibly being implemented by the end of the year.