Tuesday, May 22, 2018
News Roundup

New Port Richey won't pull plug early on Animal Services contract

NEW PORT RICHEY — The city won't be able to launch its own animal control program as soon as officials had hoped.

The City Council voted last month to try to end its contract with Pasco County Animal Services, amid complaints that county animal control workers did not respond quickly to calls from city residents. New Port Richey hoped to end the contract April 1, but county staffers have recommended against pulling the plug before the contract ends Oct. 1.

County staff said it had already budgeted for staff positions and operational costs for this fiscal year. Dan Johnson, Pasco's assistant county administrator for public services, who oversees animal control services, said Wednesday he also had major reservations over whether New Port Richey could have its own program up and running by April 1, and whether it can be maintained.

"Animal services is a tough job. It's one of the toughest jobs in the county," Johnson said.

At their meeting Tuesday night, City Council members decided to move forward with an Oct. 1 changeover — though their displeasure with the county's stance was clear.

"The only thing they want is the money," council member Ginny Miller said of the county. "It's a shame when we're ready to go, and the county isn't."

Miller called the city's plan for an all volunteer unit "revolutionary," but details of how it will operate this fall are still being hashed out, police Chief James Steffens said.

The Police Department has been working toward creating a partnership with local veterinarians and nonprofit animal groups such as SPCA Suncoast to create a unit that will include at least one police officer, the chief said.

Officials are still figuring out which entities would handle animals on the ground and what the policy would be on euthanasia and other issues. The logistics of housing the animals is a big sticking point for the county.

Nonprofits and volunteer operations close their doors when their kennels are full, and in the past have referred city residents to the county shelter, Johnson said. Those referrals will have to cease once the city ends its contract with the county, he said.

Steffens said he has looked at possible city kennel sites, including the SPCA on Congress Street, but the best location may be the Police Department at 6739 Adams St.

The city predicts taking over the services would save an estimated $26,000 annually. Johnson said New Port Richey is under contract to pay the county $59,000 for services this year, and city finance officials estimate a one-time cost of $23,500 for purchase and construction of kennels. After that, Johnson said the city has projected to the county it can conduct animal control operations for less than $30,000 by its third year.

"More power to them if they can pull that off," he said.

More time for planning may give solace to county officials, who have warned New Port Richey that it will be difficult for them to come back to Pasco Animal Services if their own venture doesn't work out. Johnson said the county will do everything it can to help the city get its program ready by Oct. 1.

"We want to work with them quite frankly for selfish reasons, because if they are going to do this, and that is their right, it needs to work or it's going to have an adverse effect not only on the city, but also us," Johnson said. "I don't believe this will be adversarial in any way."

Steffens also said cooperation between the two will be crucial. And while the delay is disappointing, he said the extra time could help the city launch the best possible program.

"The attitude is to make the best of this unfortunate situation," Steffens said told the council.

Comments
Forecast: Potential tropical system threatens to drench already soggy Tampa Bay area

Forecast: Potential tropical system threatens to drench already soggy Tampa Bay area

Flood warnings have been extended for the Alafia River in Lithia and the Little Manatee River at Wimauma as the National Weather Service continues to monitor a broad area of low pressure that has a building chance of developing into a tropical system...
Updated: 13 minutes ago
Baseball: A look at this week’s region final games

Baseball: A look at this week’s region final games

All games are tonight at 7 unless noted.Class 8AStrawberry Crest (18-8) at Fleming Island (12-13-1): The Golden Eagles started their season by losing six of seven and they also had an eight-inning tie. They ended the regular season with four straight...
Updated: 24 minutes ago
Proud mom orders ‘Summa Cum Laude’ cake online. Publix censors it to ‘Summa . Laude.’

Proud mom orders ‘Summa Cum Laude’ cake online. Publix censors it to ‘Summa . Laude.’

Saturday was Jacob Kosinski’s big day. His whole family, many from out of town, saw the Charleston, South Carolina, student graduate from his Christian-based homeschool program with a 4.89 grade point average and the coveted honor of summa cum laude....
Updated: 1 hour ago
Watch: Baboon escapes crate at Texas airport; officers corner him

Watch: Baboon escapes crate at Texas airport; officers corner him

SAN ANTONIO — A baboon on his way to a South Texas wildlife sanctuary escaped his crate and kept officers busy for two hours at San Antonio International Airport. Officers shot the baboon named Dawkins with a tranquilizer dart. The ape got loose Mond...
Updated: 1 hour ago
State You’re In: Fiction can become fact, as Woolworth placard in Tampa shows

State You’re In: Fiction can become fact, as Woolworth placard in Tampa shows

TAMPA — History can easily be distorted. If wrong assumptions are made and repeated often enough, falsehoods have a way of becoming "fact.""It happens," said Andy Huse, a librarian with the University of South Florida Special Collections Department. ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
The Daystarter: Game 7 for Lightning, Capitals; shoppers begin Publix boycott; pair pitch bipartisan ticket for governor; meet TV's Black Lightning

The Daystarter: Game 7 for Lightning, Capitals; shoppers begin Publix boycott; pair pitch bipartisan ticket for governor; meet TV's Black Lightning

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.   • Today’s forecast? If you guessed more rain, congratulations. The forecast calls for scattered showers in the morning and then numerous showers in the afternoon with is...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Explain this to me: In the world of partisan politics, how is being an independent thinker a bad thing? When it comes to general elections, we seem to like rogues and mavericks. We want outsiders and swamp scrubbers. Folks appreciate a good finger-...
Updated: 2 hours ago
A 6-day baseball tourney in this weather? Good luck, AAC

A 6-day baseball tourney in this weather? Good luck, AAC

Weather permitting, the American Athletic Conference baseball tournament begins this morning at Clearwater's Spectrum Field.When it ends — or if it ends — depends on the extent of Mother Nature's mercy.With the bay area forecast...
Updated: 2 hours ago
CentCom’s Votel: U.S. will stay in Syria to fight ISIS and keep an eye on Iran

CentCom’s Votel: U.S. will stay in Syria to fight ISIS and keep an eye on Iran

TAMPA — In March, President Donald Trump said he would be pulling U.S. troops out of Syria "very soon." But they’re still there, and will stay there, to defeat what’s left of the so-called Islamic State, says the man in charge of military efforts in ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Artist Robert Indiana, known for ‘LOVE’ series, dies at 89

Artist Robert Indiana, known for ‘LOVE’ series, dies at 89

PORTLAND, Maine — Pop artist Robert Indiana, best known for his 1960s "LOVE" series, has died at his island home off the coast of Maine. He was 89. Indiana died on Saturday from respiratory failure at his Victorian home in a converted Odd Fellows hal...
Updated: 3 hours ago