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Judge brokers contract extension between SPCA and Niagara Falls

LOCKPORT – Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster said Thursday that the city needs to have much more financial detail from the SPCA of Niagara before he will submit a six-month contract extension to the City Council.

State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr. announced an agreement Thursday between the city and the SPCA after an hour of closed-door talks in his chambers.

SPCA Treasurer David A. Urban, a certified public accountant, is to meet with City Controller Maria Brown sometime before Wednesday’s Council meeting to make the case for the substantial price increase included in Thursday’s agreement.

“Explain to us why this is justified, in detail,” Dyster said. Without such justification, “we can’t take that to Council. It would be shot down, and justifiably so.”

“I anticipate the City Council in Niagara Falls will look favorably upon a six-month extension of services,” Kloch said. Making the point stronger, he said his temporary restraining order, barring the SPCA from stopping work in Niagara Falls, will expire at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

The Council meets at 5 p.m. for a work session and 6 p.m. for a business meeting.

If the Council doesn’t go along with the extension, the SPCA will be allowed to withdraw its services, and the city will be without animal control services.

It has no dog control officer or kennel of its own.

Niagara Falls has been paying $6,960 per month, or $83,520 a year, since 2009.

Under the terms of the extension, the fee will jump to $15,000 a month, which is the financial arrangement sought by the SPCA in its last contract offer to the city. “I don’t necessarily say it is on their terms. It’s on negotiated terms,” Assistant Corporation Counsel Douglas A. Janese Jr. said.

Kloch said the increased cost for the city will be paid through “gambling funds,” by which he meant the city’s revenue from the Seneca Niagara Casino. He justified that allocation by saying animal control services are “as essential a public service as road construction.”

The SPCA had announced July 10 it would cut off services to the city because of the failure of talks on a new contract. The cutoff was to have taken effect this Monday, but the city obtained a temporary restraining order from Kloch last Friday, preventing the cutoff.

The SPCA said last week that its actual cost for providing the services was more than $170,000 in 2011 and $230,000 in 2012.

During 2012, the SPCA handled 899 calls from the city, 68 percent of which were for stray animals. Dyster said the SPCA’s documentation so far hasn’t been detailed enough. “We can’t piece together from that what we’re actually costing them,” he said.

According to Jennifer R. Pitarresi, SPCA board member and media spokeswoman, under the new contract the agency will offer more “value-added services” to the city.

For example, the SPCA would collect the city’s dog licensing fees at the shelter when a dog is adopted by a city resident and send the money to the city.