ZEPHYRHILLS — After a contentious hearing in which council member Manny Funes was urged to recuse himself, the remaining City Council voted this week to stay with Pasco County animal control.
Funes first pitched the idea last year to hire someone else to handle stray, abandoned or runaway animals. He believed local trapper Tim Wilcox could provide a greater range of services for Zephyrhills residents at a better cost.
But the numbers that came before the council Monday evening showed just the opposite: Hiring Wilcox and Dr. Melanie McGavern of Zephyrhills Veterinary Clinic would cost the city about $51,950 for the first year, up from the $40,000 the city pays Pasco County Animal Services.
A committee of city staffers recommended rejecting the Wilcox-McGavern bid for a variety of reasons, including concerns over whether the two had the necessary qualifications to serve as animal control officers.
Funes peppered the committee members with questions about their decision — how they reached their recommendation, how long the meeting lasted, and so on — until City Manager Steve Spina objected.
"I don't think city employees should be badgered by a council member because he isn't getting his way," Spina said.
Spina said Funes was "trying to subvert the process" of open requests for proposals, which were "designed to prevent manipulation."
The council majority was content to keep Pasco Animal Services, which only traps stray dogs and provides traps for residents to catch stray cats.
Wilcox and McGavern offered to trap all small animals in Zephyrhills, including raccoons, armadillos, and the chickens that have plagued downtown.
Assistant County Administrator Dan Johnson told council members that Pasco County was forced to reduce staff and services in recent years.
He explained that "if you're looking for a higher level of service … we are not going to be able to satisfy it."
The council voted 3-1 to reject the proposal, with council member Lance Smith voting against completely discarding it. He said he would like for the city to work with McGavern and others on creating a better solution.
Funes, who wrote a letter of recommendation for Wilcox that was included in the proposal, recused himself from the vote at the request of City Attorney Joseph Poblick.