Crestwood extends pact for animal shelter

A+photo+of+the+new+deck+at+the+Crestwood+Animal+Shelter%2C+courtesy+of+the+FOACAR+website.

A photo of the new deck at the Crestwood Animal Shelter, courtesy of the FOACAR website.

By Gloria Lloyd
Staff Reporter
news3@callnewspapers.com

Grant Mabie

The Crestwood Board of Aldermen voted last week to extend its lease with a nonprofit animal group for another five years, but declined to give the group a break on its rent.
Friends of Animal Control and Rescue, or FOACAR, has rented the former city animal shelter at 9225 Whitecliff Park Lane since aldermen cut animal control from the city’s budget, effective Jan. 1, 2014.
The monthly rent for the shelter started out at $1 a month, but escalated to $50 a month in 2016.
Ward 1 Alderman Richard Breeding suggested taking the rent back down to $1, but that suggestion was shot down by Ward 3 Alderman Grant Mabie at the board’s Oct. 24 meeting.
FOACAR continues to operate the Crestwood Animal Shelter with the help of volunteers, which allows lost or homeless dogs and cats to stay in the city rather than go to the county Animal Control facility in Olivette.
Aldermen voted in 2013 to eliminate the city’s animal-control worker and services.
The Board of Aldermen unanimously approved the five-year lease, keeping rent at $50 a month rather than decreasing it.
Before the vote, Breeding made a motion, seconded by Ward 2 Alderman Mary Stadter, that the volunteer-run animal shelter should get a financial break.
“Why are we charging $50 a month when they do provide a service to the city?” Breeding asked. “And they’re not for profit. I was wondering why not go back to $1?”
But before Mayor Gregg Roby called for a vote on the $1 rent, he asked Mabie, an attorney who frequently seeks to revise city code, “Did you wish to comment on that — obviously?”

Lisa Stump

The last time the board considered a lease extension with the animal rescue group in 2015, City Attorney Lisa Stump submitted a “lengthy memo with a bunch of case law and things attached” that there are “constitutional infirmities” that prohibit the city from providing “basically free services to private actors, whether they’re not-for-profit or not,” Mabie said.
Although Mabie recognized that the group provides a worthy service for the city, he believes it is already getting a good deal with $50 a month in the five-year agreement, or $600 a year.
“We’re basically giving them a lengthy extension with no inflationary increase,” Mabie said of the animal shelter.
Breeding withdrew his motion after Mabie made the case for the higher rent, and declined Roby’s invitation to possibly make a motion for $25 rent.
Since FOACAR is using the Animal Shelter building, Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel was concerned about terms in the agreement that call for the city to make exterior repairs to it.
But the city still uses more than half of the building for storage and a carpenter’s shop, Public Services Director Jim Gillam noted.
When FOACAR took over the animal shelter, the group paid for a new roof and new siding on the entire building. The group also contributes to the water and electricity bills for the building.
In the last year, the group has also paid to replace the wooden deck, lay asphalt in the courtyard area and purchased a new HVAC/heater for the dog room, City Administrator Kris Simpson wrote in a memo to aldermen.
FOACAR, which states on its website that it is “The Little Shelter That Could,” holds fundraisers throughout the year to provide its services. It currently lists 12 cats and three dogs available for adoption on its website, including Chester, a dog shelter volunteers believe was dumped on Grant’s Trail.
Crestwood Administrative Assistant Sarah Belcher wrote a memo to aldermen in December 2015 that she and Gillam met and negotiated with FOACAR on behalf of the city and settled on raising the rent from $1 a month to $75. The shelter would also pay 40 percent of the utility bill and $20 toward the water bill for the city facility under the new terms devised by the city, she wrote.
The city decided to increase the rent because the shelter was using less than half the space at the building and was already paying $100 a month to rent portable bathroom facilities, Belcher wrote.
The shelter has to rent a portable bathroom because the bathroom in the building is on the city side, FOACAR President Chrissie Risner told the board when the previous lease was approved in 2015.
At the time, Stadter asked if the group would be able to make the higher rent because “I would hate to see us lose you and the service you’re providing for the city.”
“Well, as long as people keep adopting, then we should be OK,” Risner told aldermen at their Dec. 8, 2015, meeting. “I think we can do it. I think.”
Since the shelter volunteers have paid for most of the exterior maintenance of the building and are contributing to the utilities, Roby questioned what costs the city has for the building that aren’t already covered.
“I mean, if you would like to make it lower, it would be nice,” Risner said.
Stadter suggested the city could give the shelter free rent because the $900 a year from $75 rent would be steep for the shelter and yet still a small revenue stream for the city. But Stump advised against it.
“Even though they’re a not-for-profit, the city is still prohibited by the (Missouri) Constitution from giving them free actual property if that property could be leased at a marketable value to somebody else,” Stump said. “Just because they’re not-for-profit doesn’t mean that the city can give them rent for free.”
Describing the shelter to aldermen, Risner said it was “kind of like a garage.”
Since the shelter has no bathroom, the city would face obstacles if it tried to market the property for rent, Ward 1 Alderman Darryl Wallach noted.
Aldermen voted 6-1 to lower the rent from $75 to $50, with Mabie dissenting and Ward 2 Alderman Justin Charboneau abstaining.