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Council discusses regional animal shelter

NORTH LIBERTY– There’s only about a month to decide whether or not to join the pack.
North Liberty City Council members briefly discussed the request from Iowa City to help fund an animal care and adoption center that would serve the entire area during their budget work session Tuesday, Jan. 31.
All municipalities in Johnson County and the county were asked to help fund the construction and ongoing operation of a proposed regional animal care facility last October. The request by the City of Iowa City, which currently operates the Iowa City Animal Care and Adoption Center that serves all of Johnson County’s jurisdictions, was reiterated at a Jan. 25 meeting of the area’s Metropolitan Planning Organization. City officials and county supervisors were not pleased with the request, citing the lack of input into the facility’s design and future operation, questioning the project’s price tag and the amount of requested contributions, and expressing concern about the open-ended nature of any agreements that might be forged for future services.
North Liberty was asked to cough up $167,160 initially to help fund the $4 million construction project, and commit $43,000 annually to its continued operation, numbers based on North Liberty’s average use of the current facility over the last three years.
North Liberty does bring animals to the current facility when city employees (either streets department staff or North Liberty police officers who pick up stray animals) cannot locate an animal’s owner after a few days. But the proposed contributions are based on all animals taken in from North Liberty, including pets voluntarily surrendered by owners or strays brought in by other citizens.
That left city officials to question whether they would be charged in the future for animal intakes generated only by city employees, or for all animals brought in from their jurisdiction.
“Do we want to pay for everyone who doesn’t want their animals anymore?” North Liberty City Administrator Ryan Heiar asked the council.
It was just one of the concerns posed by those asked to participate in funding.
Heiar said Friday that he, Coralville officials and representatives from Johnson County met with employees of the Cedar Valley Animal Shelter, based in Linn County, last week in order to explore other options for providing animal control in the future.
North Liberty City Council members encouraged Heiar to continue exploring alternative options, and Heiar said he hoped to present additional alternatives to the council at its next regular meeting of Feb. 14