It looked like a $14.4 million project for a new countywide animal shelter in San Luis Obispo had imploded when the Atascadero and Paso Robles city councils voted to opt out and instead build their own.
But the North County cities could get back on board now that San Luis Obispo County supervisors met with mayors to address their concerns, which include high operational costs and poor communication from the county.
“We’ve got them back at the table,” Supervisor Debbie Arnold told the board Tuesday.
Supervisors plan to revisit the topic in a few months after further discussion with the cities.
City representatives said they want to reduce operational costs of the shelter with a model that focuses on public education and spay-neuter-release programs that will ultimately reduce the number of animals needing shelter.
“This would go a long way to reduce feral populations. ... Reducing the problem where we’re spending money trying to take care of these spare animals,” Arnold said.
Paso Robles Mayor Steven Martin and Atascadero Mayor Tom O’Malley told The Tribune they also want better communication with the county.
Both cities had asked for an extension on a deadline to back out of the plan to study alternatives. The county denied their request, and, in turn, city councils voted to withdraw from the project and created an alternative plan to build a North County shelter. That prompted supervisors to form a committee with a quest to find out what went wrong.
“We’ve always been at the table; the county has now joined,” O’Malley said.
“The number of times we had presentations to our council (from the county), on cost and operation, were very few, if at all. So, electeds did not have review ability at an appropriate level at an appropriate time,” Martin said.
The cities also want a contract that lasts through the expected life of the building to avoid unexpected costs in the future. That’s easy, Arnold said.