Ad-hoc panel studying animal control in Crestwood conducts first meeting

Committee’s next meeting tentatively slated for Jan. 19

By EVAN YOUNG

A number of people likely will testify before an ad-hoc committee of Crestwood aldermen trying to determine the fate of city animal control.

Members of the Crestwood Animal Control Study Committee met for the first time last week, just a few days before the program they might decide should be shut down reached its 30th anniversary.

The committee — Ward 1 Aldermen Mimi Duncan and Darryl Wallach; Ward 2 Alderman Jeff Schlink; and Ward 4 Alderman Deborah Beezley — is charged with figuring out whether it’s in Crestwood’s best interests to retain local animal-control services or use those provided by St. Louis County.

City staff has recommended shuttering the program, which began per city ordinance on Jan. 1, 1980, as part of a five-year plan to reduce expenses.

But when the Board of Aldermen voted in November on a motion to eliminate the animal-control officer position from the 2010 city budget, it deadlocked 4-4.

Mayor Roy Robinson broke the tie to defeat Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel’s motion.

He subsequently appointed Duncan and Beezley — who voted to keep the position — and Wallach and Schlink — who wanted it cut — to the committee. The group has until the end of the first quarter of 2010, March 31, to provide their colleagues with a recommendation.

In recommending the elimination of the animal-control officer position, City Administrator Jim Eckrich has stated Crestwood can obtain animal-control services through St. Louis County at no additional cost, which is what most neighboring communities already do. But supporters of the city’s program contend the county’s services aren’t as comprehensive as those Animal Control Officer Suzie Sutton offers.

Committee members said last week they wanted several perspectives on the issue: input from county animal control; a municipality that is similar in size to Crestwood and has its own animal-control program; local veterinarians; and Sutton herself.

As part of its fact-finding process and final presentation to the Board of Aldermen, the committee plans to compile a matrix of the services offered by, and the impact of, both Crestwood and county animal control — outlining such factors as costs, response time and the number and nature of animal-related calls.

Duncan, the committee’s chair, said the group would finalize its recommendation in time for either of the two regular board meetings scheduled in March.

The next Animal Control Study Committee meeting tentatively is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 19, in the aldermanic chambers of the Government Center, 1 Detjen Drive.