Council to leave decision on Animal Shelter facility to voters

Cove Leader-Press 

The Copperas Cove City Council voted 4 to 2 to send funding of the construction of a new animal control shelter facility to Copperas Cove voters in the November election during its regular meeting Tuesday. 
During the previous council meeting, the city council had provided direction to City Manager Ryan Haverlah with a consensus regarding the location of the facility to be at Fire Station No. 2, on F.M. 1113, at the proposed price of $3.8 million for the construction of the facility and that the city would issue the debt to pay for the construction as certificates of obligation. 
Haverlah said that council had also requested that there be a report provided on the cost difference between a Certificates of Obligation versus General Obligation bonds. 
GO bonds require voter approval before issuing debt, while Certificates of Obligation require notice of intent to issue the debt, and citizens can file a petition to require an election to approve the issuance of that debt. 
“Current [state] legislation that passed this year changes how Certificates of Obligation can be issued beginning September 1, 2021,” Haverlah said. “The use of Certificates of Obligation proceeds to construct a new facility for animal control is not an eligible use under Certificates of Obligation without the repayment of that debt coming from the General Fund versus the Debt Service Fund. That has a tax rate impact to the city in order to do that. So, in order to issue Certificates of Obligation it would actually take revenue from the General Fund and then require it to be paid for the debt payments on that Certificate of Obligation in order to construct a new Animal Control facility.”
With this new change, Haverlah said that the only option left is to hold a bond election and issue GO bonds if the measure passes and asked for council’s direction yet again. 
Councilmember Jack Smith made a motion to direct city staff to proceed with preparing for a bond election on the November ballot for the animal control facility, which was seconded by Councilmember Dianne Campbell. 
Councilmember Dan Yancey brought up a partnership proposed between Fort Hood and Copperas Cove. 
“Fort Hood requested the city provide a proposal to essentially take the animals that they cannot keep beyond 72 hours, and then they would fall under whatever our policies are and requirements are for animals within our shelter,” Haverlah confirmed. 
He added that Copperas Cove has provided that initial proposal to Fort Hood and received an initial response from them on Monday, but he had not yet evaluated that fully nor responded to that yet. 
Fort Hood recognizes that they would have to pay for that service, up to and including capital investments which would facilities, vehicles, as well as human resources, additional positions and other operating costs, Haverlah said. 
“If that’s the case, I think we deserve to flesh that out a little bit more and see if we can tap into that resource because, you know, at the end of the day, a lot of the animals that we take care are ones that are left behind by soldiers leaving for one reason or another or other things,” Yancey said. “That happens a lot for all of the surrounding cities surrounding Fort Hood, so if there is a potential extra funding source to partner with Fort Hood, I think we’re selling ourselves short if we look at putting this on the ballot right now, and then depending on how that works out- if it passes or fails. If it fails, it’s a two year wait until it can be brought up again.”
Yancey added that he didn’t want to “kick the can down the road” and that the city could potentially call a special election in May for this one item. 
Deputy Police Chief Brian Wyers said he wanted to caution the council members. 
“The shelter I proposed was a shelter that’s built to service the size of Copperas Cove,” Wyers said. “If we add on Fort Hood and take on that additional responsibility, don’t expect me to come back with a $3.8 million price tag because you’re looking at a six to eight million dollar facility again, and you’re right- we will have funding from Fort Hood, but that funding could be drawn out over several years, and then we go to the city for a bond election, and we go for an eight or nine million dollar price tag. It feels like I’m kicking the can again.”
Smith pointed out that the design is easily expandable and in fact built to be expanded. He said he didn’t see a problem with putting it on the November ballot as is. 
“If Fort Hood wanted to use our animal shelter right now, they couldn’t use it or they probably wouldn’t want to use it, but if we have this one, then they may be more willing to partner with us and pay for the expansion to take care of their animals,” Smith said. “I think it deserves a vote.”
Chavez asked about the impact Fort Hood’s animals would have on the shelter. 
Wyers said the discussion with Fort Hood is in its infancy and said he would be lucky to even get the agreement finalized and the item ready to be placed on the ballot by November 2022. 
Haverlah said that Fort Hood is trying to accomplish this before June 2022 and added that Fort Hood takes in approximately 900 animals per year. Wyers said that Copperas Cove takes in well over 1,000. 
Councilmember Vonya Hart requested for Animal Control Supervisor Tamera Hall to come up and share her thoughts regarding the issue. 
Hall shared that the current facility has faced multiple infrastructure issues, such as needing a plumber to come out three times in the last eight weeks to deal with plumbing issues in Kennel B, which is the intake facility and is the oldest kennel. Hall also mentioned that the city’s animal control faces a situation with the intake of cats, with only 12 cat cages for the entire city of 35,000 people. 
“In the last month alone, we had 120 cats and kittens come in,” Hall said. “Now, we’re doing the best we can but that is way over the limit, and we can only handle so much. Rescues can only handle so much. Fosters can only handle so much. We’re doing everything we can to get them adopted out and get them out of the shelter, but sometimes it’s not always that easy.” 
When it came time to decide, the council voted 4-2 for sending the issue of a new animal control facility to the voters in the November election, with Councilmember Jay Manning absent and Yancey and Campbell voting against it. As she made her vote, Campbell said, “I really want this to pass. Nay. It’s got to pass.”

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