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Agency bids to take over care of strays

The director of the Eastern Niagara Animal Welfare Alliance made her pitch to the Common Council on Wednesday to take over the contract for housing stray animals.

Bobbie Mael, of Willow Street, said her organization will cost less and offer better service than the SPCA of Niagara County, which has the contract now.

The alliance bid $25,500 for the first year and $26,010 for the second and third years of a new contract. According to the city budget, the SPCA is being paid $28,087 this year.

Mael said, "We will have a veterinary technician. If there's an injured dog, it will not be put in a holding pen until the next day."

She also said that the alliance plans to open a shelter in Wrights Corners early in 2010, but until then it has a network of foster homes that will take animals, including pregnant or nursing cats, which the SPCA rejects. It also has a hookup with an Amherst animal hospital for urgent care.

The Council made no commitments, but it wanted to make sure Joanie Black, the city's part-time dog control officer, would continue to have a job. Mael said yes: "We need to be housing [animals], but there's no authority to pick them up," she said.

Meanwhile, the Council cut $165,000 from the tentative 2010 city budget but so far has avoided a decision on whether to keep a $335,000 curbside recycling program in the budget.

It did cut $100,000 from the $450,000 estimate for disposal of "regular" garbage. Alderwoman Richelle J. Pasceri, R-1st Ward, said there was no reason not to cut it, recycling or no. She pointed out that the city's new Modern Disposal contract reduces landfilling costs from $38 a ton to $30 a ton, yet the tentative budget didn't reflect that savings.

Also cut were $50,000 from the $200,000 estimated cost of hiring an appraisal firm to prepare for a citywide property reassessment and a $15,000 dog control van.

City Clerk and Budget Director Richard P. Mullaney has refused to calculate a tax rate, but he said there would be a double-digit percentage increase unless more cuts are made.

The Council will meet again today and Friday to work on the budget. Alderwoman Flora M. McKenzie, D-3rd Ward, at first objected to meeting today because she wanted to go out campaigning for re-election.

Mayor Michael W. Tucker rebuked her. "This is your top priority," he said. "If you don't do the budget, you won't have to campaign."

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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