Facing a formidable budget year, the Southampton Town Board is exploring privatizing the town’s animal shelter and adoption center as one way to potentially save money. Under the preliminary proposal, a private contractor would be hired by the town to run the animal shelter at its current location in Hampton Bays. However, the town would still oversee animal control. East Hampton Town functions in a similar way and only offers animal control services.
The private contractor, in the Southampton Town proposal, would be responsible for providing housing and medical care for found or rescued animals, organizing adoptions, euthanizing animals who cannot be adopted or are diseased, offering inexpensive rabies vaccination clinics, and operating a volunteer program. The proposal also stipulates that the private contractor must keep the shelter open to the public at least six days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 pm. Currently, the animal shelter is open seven days a week.
Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst asked that the contractor be required to provide scheduled reports to the town pertaining to adoptions rates. She added that they follow the internal policies, such as the volunteer policies, already crafted and followed by the town, although it is specifically stated in the proposal that the private contractor will adhere to the town’s current euthanasia policy. Throne-Holst also worried about securing jobs for current animal shelter employees through this transition to privatization.
“I think we have to discuss some sort of protection for the people who are working there,” remarked Throne-Holst.
“Not all of our government functions are provided through the government … Southampton Youth Services is privatized … We have expanded the staff at the shelter. Now there is a concern that if we move to a privatized model, they will no longer be gainfully employed,” noted supervisor Linda Kabot as she addressed the audience.
However, Throne-Holst countered that the animal shelter staff is down to “bare bone” levels and said a provision could be added to a private contractor’s proposal to the town which would require some kind of employment security.
“All I am suggesting is that an applicant’s proposal can show how they might pursue some form of civil service protection … I think this speaks to the concerns of the staff we have right now and it is something I feel strongly about,” argued Throne-Holst. “Say we do take the shelter back [from a private contractor], what are the implications from the people working there with this interruption in status.”
According to Kabot, the town will be able to authorize the proposal, or contract, during the next town meeting on Tuesday, August 25. In early September, the town will begin accepting proposals from private contractors.