Crestwood’s animal control position to be eliminated, administrator says

Cutting animal control post to save $50,000, Sime says

By Gloria Lloyd

Crestwood’s animal control position will be eliminated at the end of the year, City Administrator Mark Sime said in an email sent last week to city employees.

In addition, Sime wrote that information technology and finance positions will be contracted out to companies rather than hired in-house.

The elimination of the city’s animal control position has been debated since former City Administrator Jim Eckrich recommended cutting the services in 2009 as part of a five-year cost-cutting plan.

The board deadlocked 4-4 twice — once in November 2009 and once in March 2010 — to eliminate the position. Former Mayor Roy Robinson broke both ties to retain the position.

In December, Ward 2 Alderman Tim Trueblood’s motion to eliminate the city’s animal control position was defeated with a 5-3 vote.

Each time a city official has recommended eliminating the city’s animal control position, residents have opposed the move.

Although officials in favor of eliminating the services say they duplicate what St. Louis County already offers to city residents, animal control proponents dispute whether that is the case.

The cuts will save the city more than $50,000 a year, Sime told the Call. The decision to cut the animal control position makes sense since the county also provides the services, he added.

“It’s just a redundancy, and we can save money in our budget by eliminating the city animal control and allowing the county to take that over,” he said. “Decisions are made to use the money that the taxpayers give us to operate the city more effectively and more efficiently and provide them better services for a lower cost.”

Although in the past city officials have allowed the board to decide whether or not to keep Animal Control, Sime said the City Charter gives the city administrator the authority to cut the program.

During the Board of Aldermen’s budget discussions in December, Mayor Jeff Schlink said the city code requires animal control, and he would veto a budget ordinance that does not include the position.

“As all leaders throughout history knew, not all decisions make all people happy,” Sime wrote in his email to employees. “The unhappy people tend to speak out without knowing all sides and issues involved in the decision making.”

The city runs a 200-square-foot shelter in Whitecliff Park, staffed by an animal control officer and volunteers. The county runs a 25,000-square-foot shelter in Olivette, staffed by 16 animal control officers.

An Animal Control Study Committee convened in 2010 found that while Crestwood’s animal control officer could respond to calls immediately, the average wait time for a county officer was 12 to 24 hours, at a time when the county did not have as many officers as it does now.

The county also does not handle wildlife calls, instead referring them to the Missouri Department of Conservation. Crestwood’s animal control officer does handle wildlife calls.

The city has issued requests for proposals, or RFPs, from companies that would take over Crestwood’s information-technology and financial services, after the August resignations of both Management Information Systems Director Gordon Shaffer and City Finance Officer Greg Kremer.

After Shaffer’s resignation, Sime hired the company Tech Electronics to provide technology services. In talking with other cities and businesses, Sime learned that for employers with fewer than 100 workstations, contracting out for information-technology assistance is more efficient than hiring an in-house employee to do the same.

Sime said he could not provide details on how much the city will save by hiring consultants until he receives responses to the RFPs.