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Town to pay county SPCA for animal control

The issues of animal and dog control were addressed last week by the Town Board, which decided to contract out for both services.

Rather than pay its own officers for dog control, the town will now pay the Niagara County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals $15,811 for 2011 as part of a three-year pact to pick up and harbor dogs, as well as handle some emergency calls for injured and stray cats, according to the contract.

The town already had been paying the SPCA about $7,500 to hold the dogs its officers collected.

Town Attorney Robert O'Toole said the new plan should save the town at least $3,000 a year and provide a "more efficient service."

Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe insisted that O'Toole insert an "opt-out clause" in the contract, in case the town is dissatisfied with the service. He said he didn't want to be tied into a three-year deal if there were problems.

Under the terms of the deal, the town's cost increases to $16,251 for next year and $16,714 in 2013.

The SPCA would answer all emergency calls, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it was noted, as well as pick up and dispose of dead dogs, cats, and small wildlife, not to include skunks or livestock.

The board had disputes with its two dog control officers last year regarding reimbursement for rabies vaccines, among other issues. The full-time officer was paid about $5,000 a year to pick up and transport dogs and some cats to the SPCA. The other position was on a part-time, as needed, basis.

The town has been operating without the positions since Jan. 1.

For other nuisance animals such as skunks, the town will make referral calls to Wild Critters of Niagara County, a nonprofit group that provides pick-up services, Cliffe said. If residents prefer another animal control provider, they will be referred to other private removers, he said.

In another matter, the board heard requests from a representative of Wendel Duchscherer Architects & Engineers for more engineering fees.

Engineer Tim Walck told the board that his company would have to charge no more than $10,000 to implement a geographic information system computer program that analyzes and displays many types of geographic information on the town. Water and sewer department head Rich Donner supported the program. The expenditure was approved.

However, the board held off on authorizing Wendel to provide a conceptual design and preliminary cost estimates for the Fairmount Park improvement grant at a cost of $7,500. Cliffe and Councilman Gil Doucet said they did not know where in the budget they could get the money.

The grant application would seek about $350,000 in matching funds to convert or replace the restrooms at the park to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Walck said. Although the original idea was to add a walking path around and through the entire park, the new concept is for a smaller path with exercise stations, as well as some trees.

Councilman Larry Helwig called for a full presentation of the new plan at a special meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday.