Spay/neuter group seeks city surcharge

By Jayson Jacoby March 10, 2014 09:55 am

By Jayson Jacoby

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A Baker City woman who’s been working for several years to reduce the number of unwanted cats and dogs in Baker County hopes city residents will contribute financially to the effort.

Suzanne Fouty, who coordinates the nonprofit Mollie Atwater and Friends Spay/Neuter Fund, will talk to the City Council during its meeting Tuesday about a proposal to add a monthly surcharge of 50 cents to residents’ water/sewer bills.

The money — an estimated $24,000 per year — would help pay to spay or neuter animals as well as hire a part-time coordinator who would apply for grants.

The City Council meets Tuesday at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 1655 First St.

Fouty said she will be making the same pitch to other city councils in Baker County over the next couple months.

If each city were to agree to add the surcharge, the project could raise $24,000 to $30,000 per year.

Fouty won’t ask the Baker City Council to take any action Tuesday.

“I’m just asking the community to weigh in on the idea,” she said. “Money is tight, and I know it’s tough to talk about another fee. But these are the kinds of things that define out community.”

Fouty believes the cost — $6 per  year — could translate into significant progress in reducing the population of unwanted animals, and in particular feral cats.

“Prevention is always the cheapest route,” she said.

Mollie Atwater and Friends has provided vouchers to pay part or all of the cost to spay and neuter more than 1,500 animals in Baker County.

Last year the organization spent about $13,000, money raised through donations and grants, Fouty said.

Most of the money is distributed in vouchers that help cat owners afford to fix their pets — $50 for female cats, $35 for males, or $55 for a male or female dog.

In addition the group pays to spay or neuter feral cats.

Money raised from a city surcharge would also help pay for the trap/neuter/replace program for feral cat colonies.

The $13,000 budget is not only not stable, since it relies largely on donations, but it wasn’t enough to meet the need, Fouty said.

“We have 36 people on a waiting list right now,” she said.

The extra money from a city surcharge should satisfy the current level of demand and also make it possible to expand the spay/neuter campaign, Fouty said.

She also hopes the part-time program coordinator would be able to secure grants that would further boost the annual budget.  

 In other business Tuesday night the City Council will consider a proposal from City Manager Mike Kee to give pay raises of 1.5 percent to 16 city employees who aren’t represented by a union.

(Kee did not propose a raise for himself. That’s a decision for councilors to make, he said.)

That group, which includes department heads, three public works supervisors and three assistant fire chiefs, has not had an across-the-board raise since 2011.

A 1.5 percent raise for the 16 non-union employees, not including Kee, would cost the city about $19,000 for one year.

The city negotiated new contracts with each of its three labor unions last year that included annual pay raises ranging from 1 percent to 1.5 percent.

Also on Tuesday, the Council will:

• Consider an amendment to the construction contract for a permanent UV water treatment facility to be built later this year.

The contract, with James W. Fowler Co., is for $3.19 million.

• Consider a liquor license for the Lone Pine Café as part of its consent agenda, a proclamation declaring March American Red Cross month in Baker City in March, and the final reading of Ordinance No. 3332, creating a Public Arts Commission.

— Pat Caldwell of the Baker City Herald contributed to this story