Bids sought to privatize animal control services

Nye County commissioners Tuesday voted to seek bids on private operations of the county’s animal shelter without a fuss, only a brief discussion about ensuring the specifications are adequate.

Commissioners have studied the idea of cutting this service as animal control is not mandated by the state. Cuts to other programs, such as the senior nutrition program and veterans’ services, are also under consideration. In a workshop for the 2013-14 fiscal year, the county comptroller estimated the animal shelter costs the county $146,916 to operate, after deducting revenues.

Only Commission Chairman Butch Borasky expressed concern about the idea of privatization.

“I’ve had one concern about this and I’ve had many, many private citizens in the past who have been totally against privatizing it and giving it to a private company. Do we have criteria built in that is going to prevent mishandling of animals?” Borasky asked.

“We have laws against cruelty to animals,” replied Commissioner Lorinda Wichman, who made the motion to go out for bids.

“You’re handing off responsibility that is almost always done by government to a private agency. Who knows who’s going to apply for this?” Borasky asked.

District Attorney Brian Kunzi said Borasky’s statement was incorrect, a lot of nonprofits operate animal shelters, most government entities don’t.

From a legal standpoint, Kunzi told commissioners, “Once you hand off that responsibility you don’t have any liability on the county. We’re just giving them that responsibility.”

Commissioner Frank Carbone wanted to be careful there were safeguards built into the bid proposals.

Commissioner Donna Cox was told the bids will be advertised in local newspapers and on the Nye County website. County Purchasing Agent Judy Dodge said it would also be advertised through the Pahrump Chamber of Commerce.

It remains to be seen whether the actual awarding of the contract will generate the heated exchanges that a contentious meeting at the Bob Ruud Community Center in October 2000 did. That’s when county commissioners awarded a $250,000 contract to exotic animal owner Karl Mitchell to run the animal control program. Mitchell got the contract after numerous animal rights advocates were afraid the contract would go to Dewey Animal Center in Las Vegas. Mitchell’s contract was terminated after eight months. He was arrested in May 2001 on charges ranging from theft of animals to possession of euthanizing drugs without a permit, to illegally killing a pot-bellied pig. Mitchell eventually served a prison sentence for motor vehicle theft.

In 2005, Animal Control Officer Dawn Moore made an unsuccessful bid for a contract to operate the shelter, for her company, Phoenix Down Inc.

The request for proposals states bids will be awarded to the lowest responsive and responsible bidder. The county will weigh the bids based on price, conformity to specifications, facilities and equipment, experience, terms of payment, qualifications, past performance, performance or delivery dates, quality and utility of services, supplies, materials or equipment offered.

The successful bidder will be awarded a one-time contract; the county can renew that contract annually for an additional three years. The county is requiring a $1 million commercial general liability and automobile liability insurance policy per occurrence and $2 million aggregate. The county would have the right to terminate the agreement if a contractor fails to comply with the agreement terms, upon 30 days written notice. Contractors are required to possess all applicable town, county, state or federal licenses or permits. The county reserves the right to terminate a contractor’s employee. There is a prohibition on being under the influence of alcohol or drugs on county property. The work area is required to be kept in a neat, clean and safe condition.

The bid specifications state: “As an independent contractor, proposer will assume all legal, financial and operational responsibility for animal shelter services.”

The contractor will be required to provide and maintain all services and facilities in compliance with the latest guidelines of the American Humane Association, the bid specs state. Nye County sheriff’s deputies and animal control officers will have access to the facility to deliver animals. All impounded animals shall only be released or destroyed after notifying animal control officers. Quarterly reports are required to be submitted to the Nye County Director of Emergency Services. The contractor will be allowed to keep impound charges, daily care and housing charges, adoption money, licensing and charges for rabies vaccinations. The contractor will be required to maintain a spay and neuter program, as well as provide an adoption program.

The county is requiring a minimum of 30 hours per week for public access to the animal shelter. The county is also requiring the bid applicants to provide a program plan, good for 40 points in the scoring; their qualification and experience, another 25 points; financial capability and facilities, 10 points; the cost proposal, 20 points and another five points for references.

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