Just days after Santa Barbara County officials publicly revealed they were exploring the possibility of closing down the lone animal shelter in Lompoc, the Lompoc City Council voted to approve another one-year contract for the county to provide animal services within the city.
The City Council voted 5-0 to approve the move Tuesday night, less than a week after the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors allocated $188,200 to the county’s Division of Animal Services with the hope that the funds would help prevent the closure of the La PAWS shelter at 1501 W. Central Ave.
The contract approved by the Lompoc City Council, which did not discuss the issue, calls for the city to pay the county nearly $335,000 to manage the shelter and provide other animal services through June 2021. That payment marks a 2.5% increase over the current agreement between the city and county.
Representatives from the county’s animal services department did not speak at the meeting and did not return messages seeking additional information on Wednesday, so it is unclear if the county still is considering closing down the shelter.
This isn’t the first time that the Lompoc shelter has been in jeopardy.
Two years ago, during an acrimonious series of budget discussions, the Lompoc City Council had staff explore potentially cutting ties with the county for animal services and directed staff to look into having Lompoc operate its own shelter and/or develop partnerships with private contractors. That action was aimed at saving the city money.
The research by city staff, according to a report provided for Tuesday’s discussion, found that operating a city-run shelter would be a “much larger financial burden” to the city than continuing the contract with the county, even with the increased payment.
That 2.5% — or $8,170 — in additional funds that the city will pay the county this year, compared to last year, accounts for rising costs in food, medical care and other services and supplies for animals, according to Lompoc staff.
The animal services agreement is set to be renegotiated again next year.
Police Chief Joe Mariani and Fire Chief Gerald Kuras both cited the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the civil unrest taking place throughout the country as they shared concerns about safety and staffing if a fireworks show were to be held. Mariani pleaded with the council to follow the lead of surrounding communities and cancel the show.
Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.
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