Breakdown: Where Bakersfield, Kern County stand on animal shelter

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) Bakersfield officials say analysis of the cost of running the animal shelter alone led to their last-minute offer to save their partnership with the county. The City Council was set to take action Wednesday night to end long years of sharing a facility with the county. But that could be delayed, similar to the postponement Kern County supervisors took Tuesday.

At the board meeting, city spokesmen came up with a new idea to pay more for operating a shared shelter.

"We just have a better understanding of what we think it's going to cost us to run the facility," Steve Teglia told Eyewitness News. He's an assistant to the city manager and said that analysis prompted another attempt to "bridge the gap" with the county.

"We thought, given that information, is there an opportunity to make one, last effort to see if we couldn't put together a deal with the county that made sense to them and made sense to us," he said.

The animal shelter on South Mt. Vernon Avenue is on land owned by the city. Under the current agreement, the county pays to lease the location and then runs the operation, caring for animals from both city and county areas.

But, the rub has been cost sharing, which has led the county to start plans to move out and set up its own shelter.

Most recently, Bakersfield has paid the county $338,000 a year for animal care at the shelter. Kern County officials said the real cost for that service was just over $1.1 million. The city was unwilling to kick in that much.

Teglia said when the county decided to split up and move out, the city looked at running the shelter on its own. He said that would cost about $560,000 a year, even after figuring ways to bring in some revenue.

"The city of Bakersfield is, one way or another, going to be spending more money related to animal control and animal care," Teglia said.

How much more is Bakersfield now willing to pay the county for animal shelter services?

"That's still kind of ongoing in discussion," Teglia said. "I don't want to throw out a specific number. But, let's just say we're looking at substantially increasing the amount that we'd pay over the current contract."

Earlier this year, the county started looking for a spot to put a new shelter on its own. At Tuesday's meeting, the supervisors were set to take action on leasing a large warehouse on East Brundage Lane. That was postponed after getting the last-minute offer from the city to continue working on a partnership of some kind.

County Public Health Director Matt Constantine had told Eyewitness News that new facility would have a lot to offer.

"It will change the whole way we approach how we care for animals in our community," Constantine said last Friday. "What we're proposing is a completely indoor shelter facility. Protected form the elements, protected from the hot summers, and the cold winters, and the rainy weather."

Some people have concerns about an indoor shelter, but Constantine said there are many benefits. He believes their new plan will provide a facility that's safer and better. The county has been making plans to be out of Mt. Vernon and into a new location by the end of October.

Teglia said improving shelter conditions for animals is also important to the city.

"We're looking at trying to combine resources to affect that change as opposed to going our separate ways," he said. Teglia said they have concerns about an indoor shelter, but they want more information about what the county is planning for the new location.

The county has been making plans to be into a new location by the end of October. But at Tuesday's meeting, supervisors voted delay signing a lease for the new site, and the issue is set to come back on July 17.

Teglia holds out hope the county will stay at the Mt. Vernon site in partnership with the city. He said Bakersfield officials want to improve cooperation, both with the facility and operation of a joint animal shelter.

"The ultimate outcome could be we still go our own ways, and I think we're both preparing to do so," Teglia said. "But, we're really focused on trying to continue a relationship if possible."