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Is a new shelter headed to Indian Capital?

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Gallup talks animal shelter, vet services

The city of Gallup, McKinley County, and the state Department of Finance and Administration are in lock step with a new Joint Powers Agreement regarding animal control.

The Gallup City Council OK’d the document several weeks ago and one aspect of the agreement pertains to the possibility of building a new animal shelter. Currently, there is an area animal shelter on Hamilton Road, off US 491.

“It is something the county and city want to look into,” City Attorney George Kozeliski said of funding and site selection for a new animal shelter. “It would take about $2 million for a new shelter facility to be built.”

Kozeliski and Mayor Jackie McKinney noted that the last animal shelter — which was built in Farmington, in the northwest part of New Mexico — cost $2 million. That amount was financed by the state, they said.

While there are no finite plans to build a new animal control center and shelter in Gallup or McKinley County at the moment, the Gallup-McKinley County Humane Society has become a “regional service center for animals,” according to McKinney.

“You’ve got people who come from not only the immediate area, but people from all over Arizona who bring their critters there,” he said.

Kozeliski said that part of the JPA calls for a new board of directors to investigate possible locations and funding for a new shelter. He emphasized that nothing, however, is written in stone on the matter.

The Gallup-McKinley County Humane Society is operated by Dr. Clint Balok, who also owns the building. The city pays Balok $100,000 for services, which includes everything from spay and neutering to surgical procedures.

“We also fund animal control for $300,000,” Kozeliski said. “The purpose of the [JPA] is to combine all that money and contract things out in accordance with state law,” he said. “We are entering into a lease agreement with Balok to have legal use of the property on [491], which we have never had. The city and the county are combining all their funds to operate jointly. Presently, we have an informal arrangement.”

Gallup City Council meeting

The vote at the June 14 city council meeting formalizes the city as the fiscal agent of the facility, Kozeliski noted. As such, the city has appointed board members, who include City of Gallup Chief Financial Officer Patty Holland, local emergency room physician Dr. Oscar Palomo, and Joyce Lebeck. The appointments were made by McKinney at the June 14 council meeting.

Both the city and the county now have members on the board, which gives the whole matter that much more direction, Kozeliski said.

Cosy Balok, the executive director of the Gallup-McKinley County Humane Society, said she welcomed the new changes implemented by the city and county.

“It’s something that was just done,” Balok said. “I think a lot of people are waiting to see how it turns out.”

McKinney noted that the new JPA agreement takes effect July 1.

“The city will be the fiscal agent and the employees will be city employees,” Kozeliski said.

New animal shelter for Gallup?

Kozeliski said a new animal shelter is not a given, but the city checked into potential locations about six months ago and came away with something:

“A Dee Ann Street location was high on the list because it was city-owned property and the state gave us clearance to do with it what we wanted,” Kozeliski explained. “We went there with county reps and our facilities folks and it turned out to be too run-down and may have had some structural problems which would take hundreds of thousands of dollars to get operational.”

He continued, “We would be better off building a new facility. In the end, we opted to lease the present facility starting July 1. The new city and county board is tasked with looking for options to replace what we are using now.”

Kozeliski said the city has enacted a Request For Proposal for shelter services and veterinarian services. Balok would not speculate as to whether the Humane Society would respond to that RFP.

“Our present situation is that the city has no relationship with the McKinley County Humane Society or anyone else for shelter services,” Kozeliski said. “It is a relationship that grew out of years of working together, but there was nothing ever in writing. The city paid nothing to the Humane Society. The county, on the other hand, paid the Humane Society $165,000 a year. We are getting the city and the county in compliance with state law with the RFP process and a formal JPA to operate animal control and an animal shelter.”

The legislative component

State Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, D-Gallup, said she carried legislation for a new animal shelter back in 2004, but that idea went south, as did the capital outlay funding connected to it. Lundstrom’s legislation was helped along by the Northwest New Mexico Council of Governments, where Lundstrom was executive director at the time.

“It never came back up, but the idea for a new shelter never went away,” Lundstrom said.

Lundstrom said she was recently asked by McKinney to see what funds are available at the state level for a new shelter. She said she continues to look into the matter and is optimistic that funds can be found.

Meanwhile, Balok said she’ll hold off commenting on the RFP process. She said the Humane Society’s five-member board of directors meets soon, and any decisions regarding getting into the RFP process will start there.

“Again, I think we’ll wait and see as to what comes out of our next board meeting,” Balok said. “That’s where we are right now.”

The Gallup-McKinley County Humane Society provides a low cost spay/neuter clinic on Wednesday, and offers dog and cats adoptions Monday-Friday, 9 am - 4:30 pm.

By Bernie Dotson
Sun Correspondent