Cecil County Exec Delays Animal Control Decision; Lag in Proposal to County Council Puts Animal Services in Limbo for 1/1/16
Cecil County Executive Tari Moore has failed to decide among multiple bidders on an 18-month contract for animal control services beginning 1/1/2016, putting off a scheduled recommendation for a contract to the County Council at its Tuesday 11/17/15 meeting and instead scheduling a secret, closed-door meeting with the Council on the issue.
As a result, the failure of Moore to present a recommendation to the County Council on the timetable as specified in a “Request for Proposals” or RFP, means that the county administration is foot-dragging so that action will be delayed until close to or after the expiration of the current animal control contract with A Buddy for Life Inc. on 12/31/2015.
Under County Council operating procedures and the RFP, a proposed animal control contract was supposed to be submitted to the Council for introduction at its Tuesday evening 11/17/15 legislative meeting, with a vote occurring two weeks later. But now, the earliest a proposed contract could be submitted to the Council would be 12/1/15 with a vote on 12/15/15, with a contractor having just two weeks, including the Christmas holidays, to hire staff and gear up to provide services as of 1/1/2016. And there were no assurances that Moore would make a decision and recommendation at all before the end of the year.
Previously, county Director of Administration Al Wein told Cecil Times that County Executive Tari Moore would have a contract proposal to submit to the County Council by the end of last week, so it could be listed on the council’s agenda for review this week. But when the agenda was released last Friday, animal control was absent from the roster. Instead, the agenda listed a “closed” secret meeting of Moore’s administration with the County Council, citing discussion of a possible “contract” or bid that should not be discussed in public or with the press present.
In response to questions from Cecil Times, Wein said the executive would have a “statement” on the matter on Monday. But mid-day on Monday, Wein emailed Cecil Times to say there would be no “statement” on the matter until after the secret meeting of Moore with the Council on Tuesday.
Under Council operating procedures the earliest there could be legislative action now, assuming Moore comes up with a plan in the next two weeks, would be introduction of a proposal on 12/1/15 and final approval on 12/15/15. That would leave just two weeks, including the Christmas holidays, for a contactor to gear up for services.
There were four bidders when bids for the RFP for animal control were opened on 10/1/2015: the current vendor, A Buddy for Life, Inc. which rents a shelter in Elkton from a former county Circuit Court Judge and his wife; the former animal control services provider, Cecil County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Inc. which owns a large shelter in Chesapeake City; First State Animal Center/Kent County (Delaware) SPCA in Camden, DE; and a Chestertown pest control and animal trapper with no shelter of its own. All of those bidders were interviewed by county officials in mid-October. And one—the Cecil County SPCA—was called back for a formal follow-up discussion with some county officials, according to informed sources.
Several County Council members contacted by Cecil Times on Monday said they had no idea what was going on with the animal control contract issue and that Moore had not discussed the issue with legislators. But County Council President Robert Hodge (R-5) said that “I think she wants to discuss potential options” and does not have a “clear plan” on how to proceed. He said Moore had been “very tight-lipped with me and everybody else” on her plans and options for animal control and animal sheltering services.
Kevin Usilton, executive director of the Delaware group bidding on the Cecil County contract, said he had had no discussions or information from the county other than a one-time meeting in mid-October to explain his group’s bid. “We haven’t heard anything,” he said. But given the fact that the clock is running down on time for a decision and action by the County Council, Usilton suggested that the county might be considering extending the current contract with the Buddy group, which expires on 12/31/15, at least on an interim basis.
Jeanne Deeming, executive director of the Cecil County SPCA, said the organization was still waiting for word from the county. She noted that any successful bidder would need time to hire staff, arrange insurance for vehicles that would be turned over from the county to any new vendor, and assemble needed supplies to serve the dogs and cats to be housed at a shelter.
Moore is known to prefer a government owned and operated shelter approach, after multiple visits to government run animal control operations over the past two years. But most of those facilities have spent multi-millions to build a government shelter—such as the newly built Harford County animal shelter that cost local taxpayers over $6 million to build, plus annual operating subsidies to the Harford Humane Society, which actually owns the land on which the government built a new shelter.
David Fang, a former president of Harford Humane who attended a pre-bid meeting on the Cecil County animal control contract, told Cecil Times that he did not put in a bid to offer services in Cecil County but had multiple conversations with county officials. He said he proposed that the county buy a vacant western Cecil County commercial building, up for sale at a price of $600,000, that would also require substantial renovations to modify it for housing animals. He said he did not receive a response to that idea.