ZEPHYRHILLS — For months, city officials debated the idea of hiring their own animal control officer instead of using the county's services. Tim Wilcox, who traps chickens and other nuisance animals for the city, even emerged as a candidate.
But when the deadline passed Nov. 13 for people to offer their services, the city had zero applicants.
City Council member Manny Funes said he misinterpreted the application deadline — thinking it was 5 p.m. that day, when in fact it was 3 p.m. — and as a result, Wilcox's proposal came in late. But he urged the council on Monday night to still consider the proposal of Wilcox, who would team with Melanie McGavern of Zephyrhills Veterinary Clinic to provide a broader range of services.
"I cannot apologize enough," Funes said Monday. "Folks, we really need to look at the qualifications of Ms. McGavern and Mr. Wilcox."
Council members agreed to extend the application deadline, and plan to decide at their Dec. 14 meeting whether to stick with Pasco County Animal Services or hire someone else.
Funes has led the push to hire someone else, arguing the city could get greater coverage for less cost. Wilcox has offered around-the-clock trapping of all nuisance animals, including cats. The county only traps dogs (residents are on their own to catch feral cats and bring them to the Land O'Lakes shelter) and Animal Services workers only work daytime shifts (after-hours calls are handled on an emergency basis).
Funes said McGavern, who is a licensed veterinarian, has all of the permits and experience necessary to do the job and will be the primary contact with the city if she submits a proposal with Wilcox and is accepted for the position.
City Manager Steve Spina said he had no objections to extending the application deadline.
"I don't think it would hurt us to see what they have to offer," Spina said. "It might be just what we're looking for."
Mayor Cliff McDuffie said it was troublesome that Wilcox and McGavern did not check the deadline themselves. He noted the deadline was printed on the paperwork provided by the city.
Council member Luis Lopez said he had a list of questions for McGavern, and disclosed that she was the veterinarian who treats his pets.
Lopez asked whether McGavern's office could handle an influx of animals at the clinic's kennels and asked what the euthanization policy would be.
McGavern said her staff would try to save as many animals as possible and would use private animal rescue groups to keep down the kennel population.
"We've kind of been doing this all along," McGavern said. "We've had several animals abandoned at our facility, and we've absorbed the cost of caring for them."
Funes said it would be a mistake if the council did not give Wilcox and McGavern another chance to submit their proposal.
Council member Kenneth Compton cast the only vote against extending the application deadline. He said the city should not leave the protective umbrella of having the county provide animal services.
Council president Jodi Wilkeson, who has opposed seeking outside proposals, was absent from Monday's meeting.