Bloomingdale to Run Shelter Without BASS
Council voted 6-0 to run shelter internally.
After 16 years of servicing the borough, Bloomingdale Regional Animal Shelter Society (BASS) will no longer be sheltering animals in Bloomingdale after the borough council voted 6-0 to run the shelter internally Tuesday.
The council discussed the issue in a late executive session during Tuesday night's meeting and Mayor Jonathan Dunleavy said following the discussion, Councilman John D'Amato motioned that the borough run the shelter in-house "due to financial issues in the borough." The motion was seconded by Councilman Ray Yazdi and approved unanimously.
BASS has been requesting a five-year contract with the borough for most of this year and in years prior to compensate them for sheltering services for seven towns that were added to BASS' responsibilities through shared services agreements. The borough did offer the donor-funded organization a contract Dec. 30 which would have given them $31,500 per year, but BASS requested several material and non-material changes to both the contract and the lease agreement for the Brandt Lane facility. Those changes included requesting additional money from the borough to pay utility bills, flood protection in the way of a new building should the current facility be damaged, lowering the insurance requirement needed on the facility and allowing BASS to keep fixtures they install. Also, BASS disagreed with a 120-day clause in the contract which would allow either entity to void the contract with 120 days notice if it was not beneficial to the entity.
After the council's last meeting, BASS rescinded their bid on the contract in hopes they could negotiate with the borough. But after the governing body met to discuss the matter for the first time since the bid was rescinded on Tuesday, the council decided to move forward without BASS.
At the council's Feb. 21 meeting, some council members indicated their disappointment with a decision BASS made the weekend before to vacate the shelter without giving the borough notice. The animals that were at the shelter were brought to private homes for fostering. While notice was not required by law since BASS was not under contract at the time, Borough Administrator Ted Ehrenburg said he felt that it was not out of good faith to not tell the borough their intentions before vacating. BASS President Ellen Ribitzki has argued that the organization was expecting funding from the borough for January and February (prior to awarding the contract, the borough had paid BASS $2,500 per month for several months but after the contract was offered, discontinued the payments) and that the BASS board of directors felt that if they did not leave on their own accord, they were at risk of the borough taking fixtures that BASS owned.
After BASS left, the borough took on animal sheltering responsibilities until the council made a decision on whether to move forward with BASS or operate the shelter internally. In the first seven days of having control over the shelter, Ehrenburg said no animals were brought in by the Animal Control Office (ACO) and on the eighth day, two dogs and four cats were brought in but they were quickly reclaimed.
Ehrenburg said the borough will not be rescuing animals but instead, focus on adopting out animals being brought in by ACO.
"Now we're not rescuing animals. We bring them in but we process them to find homes or other rescues so we don't have the carrying cost of the operation but these animals are finding homes," he said.
Ehrenburg also said that while the shelter will not be a kill-shelter, the intent of the borough is not for the animals to be sheltered in Bloomingdale for several years. Ehrenburg said the borough will be reaching out to other local organizations for help adopting out the animals if needed.
"One of the mistakes that was made in the past was that animals were left to linger there for years," he said.
Ehrenburg does not feel that animals will be in the shelter for as long as they have been in the past because the borough plans to re-energize the operation, re-naming the shelter North Jersey Community Shelter and motivating the volunteers. He said 14 volunteers have already come forward to help with the operation.
As for the costs of the re-vamped shelter, Ehrenburg said since the contract that was offered to BASS was for $31,500 per year, he plans to pro-rate that amount and run the shelter under that cost figure.
Ribitzki said Wednesday that she had not heard about the borough's intentions to not move forward with BASS but that she was not surprised. She also said she is concerned about the animals that were taken out of the shelter in Bloomingdale already.
"The outlook for the animals is not good obviously," she said, referring to the animals that come in to the shelter in the future.
Ribitzki said she is skeptical that the borough will be able to run the shelter for the $31,500 per year. She also noted that BASS has spent a significant amount of money, $150,000 to renovate the facility and that she did not feel that BASS' requests of the borough were unreasonable.
"This is what we needed to keep the shelter at the level of care that we had been providing at this time," she said.
Ribitzki said BASS will be seeking a new location to continue their operation.