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June 17, 2004 

On May 24 the Jefferson County Commission sent the City of Birmingham a revised draft of the proposed animal control contract with BJC Animal Control, which was awarded the bid for animal control services in April. A memo from assistant City attorney Pat Burns expressed concern that there is no provision for how fees collected by BJC Animal Control are to be used. A second memo from Kevin Owens, administrative assistant to the mayor, pointed to the omission of audit requirements of BJC Animal Control. Lack of accountability has been one of the main complaints regarding the vendor for the seven years he has held the contract. Another grievance from the mayor’s office is the requirement that the City pay the contractor directly rather than through the County. The memo recommends that the City hold a separate contract with BJC Animal Control if payments are paid directly to the vendor.

During a June 8 interview, Mayor Bernard Kincaid said he had forwarded the revised draft of the new contract, along with the law department’s recommendations, to the Birmingham City Council. Kincaid said his next move would be to convene the task force that was earlier created to review whether the City should weigh options to break away from the County for animal control services. The task force includes Kincaid, Council President Lee Loder, Councilor Valerie Abbott, and Councilor Joel Montgomery.

Due to the lack of accountability on the part of Birmingham/Jefferson County Animal Control, Mayor Kincaid believes, “We don’t get a very good return on our investment.”

When asked about a possible recommendation to sign off on the contract with the County, Kincaid responded: “I’m not sure at this point. Quite frankly, I would rather not have a 27th department. We have 26 in the City [currently]. I would much rather our being able to work out an arrangement with the County. But it has to inure to the benefit of the citizens of Birmingham. I say unabashedly that I don’t think the arrangement that we have currently— and if that paradigm were followed in the future—it does not serve the citizens of Birmingham well. We are putting $55,000 plus a month into this project, which means we’re putting in more than $660,000 [yearly]. It’s my understanding that surrounding municipalities can purchase animal control services for $75 an hour . . . I don’t feel the City’s citizens are getting their money’s worth. That’s just being candid. But I think the telling statistic is when you examine how much the proposed vendor charges the County and City collectively, and how much that vendor will charge the County individually, it shows you that we are paying the freight on that, and I just don’t think we’re getting our money’s worth. That’s just for the catching of the animals. There are elements such as adoption programs. What about spay and neutering? What about public education? I feel strongly that the funds that we’re paying should cover that. We don’t get, in my opinion, a very good return on our investment.”

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