For a dozen years
at least, the Chesterton Town Council has grudgingly entered into an annual
contract with Porter County Animal Control.
to council members’ way of thinking residents already pay for Animal
Control services through their property taxes, which would appear to mean
that any additional annual fee is a form of double-billing.
Now, with a
proposed three-year contract with Animal Control on the table, at $27,347
per year and with a start date retroactive to August, members are wondering
once again, as Emerson DeLaney, R-5th, put it at Monday’s meeting, “Why do
we have to pay more because we live in a municipality?”
Every year, DeLaney
said, “the Commissioners just write a check to Animal Control for the
unincorporated but municipalities have to pay based on the number of calls
from the previous year. Both municipalities and unincorporated pay taxes. I
don’t see a fair and equitable charge for this contract.”
Member Jim Ton,
R-1st, concurred but noted that there is some urgency in making a final
decision about the contract. “Sooner or later we’ll have to do one of two
things, one way or another,” he said. “I’m disconcerted too but they have
the only show in town. We’d have to come up with our own animal control
plan. I think our backs are up against the wall.”
In the end, members
agreed to delegate DeLaney to seek a meeting with Animal Control and a
Commissioner, with a view to obtaining further information. First, although
Animal Control calculates the fee it charges a municipality based on the
number of calls it received from residents in the previous year, Animal
Control provides no actual breakdown of the nature of those calls. Some of
them, DeLaney acknowledged, are requests for Animal Control service but some
may also be queries about hours of operation at the Animal Shelter, pet
adoption, or volunteer opportunities.
Animal Control has provided the council with an accounting of its costs, it
hasn’t provided one of its revenue streams: from adoption fees, for
instance, or vaccinations.
council tasked Town Manager Bernie Doyle to confer with other
municipalities, to see whether they also have the same issues with Animal
Control. “I don’t know if any other municipalities feel the same way we do,”
Ton said. “Do any other towns have the same hesitation? Let’s have the Town
Manager make a few phone calls.”
Ton raised one
other issue about the contract: it contains no termination language. Before
he’d be willing to sign anything, Ton said, the contract would need to be
amended to include a clause allowing an opt-out after suitable prior
notification is given.
Town Attorney Chuck
Lukmann told the council that he’ll start working both on a termination
clause and on arranging a meeting with county officials. “We’ll get right on
that,” he said.