The city of Riverton has struck a deal to turn over its animal-control operations to Salt Lake County, avoiding the cost to replace a cramped, obsolete shelter while ensuring that residents get better service.
"I have loyalties here, and I would like to see it stay. But if you look at it objectively, it does make sense for the city to be doing what they are doing," said Bill Salmon, Riverton's code-enforcement and animal-services manager.
Starting July 1, Salt Lake County Animal Services will take on the responsibility for providing animal control to Riverton, population 40,000, on the southwest side of Salt Lake Valley.
The decision to sign a one-year, $185,000 contract with the county wasn't made lightly. Riverton's two animal-control officers are productive. Last year they responded to 772 calls for assistance, handled 1,326 "citizens requests," cared for 388 animals at the shelter returning most to their owners, finding new homes for others and placing still others with rescue groups. Officers euthanized 103 mostly feral, sick or injured animals.
"You can definitely say they were stretched," city manager Lance Blackwood said.
The bigger issue was the condition of the animal shelter. Built several decades ago, it sits across 1500 West from the city's main park. Riverton's plans to improve the park involve demolishing several nearby structures, including the shelter. The decision to raze the building prompted Mayor Bill Applegarth and the City Council to consider options for the future of animal control.
One option was to construct another shelter, which would have been financed by issuing bonds, Blackwood said. But with the cost projected to exceed $2 million and the economy weak, the mayor and council decided to accept the county's proposal to provide animal services to the city.
Blackwood said the proposal wouldn't have been accepted if it meant that Riverton residents would have had to accept inferior service. In fact, the opposite was the case. With animal-control services provided by the county, an officer will be available to respond six days a week instead of five, with emergency service available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Riverton animal-control officers are on duty weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., and on an emergency basis after business hours and on weekends and holidays. In contrast, county officers are available until 9 p.m. on weekdays, as well as from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and holidays.
The county shelter at 511 W. 3900 South is open from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. weekdays, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. While the Riverton shelter is open the same number of hours on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. it is closed Saturdays.
The deal included an agreement for the county to offer employment to Riverton's animal-control officers at the same rate of pay. Blackwood said the officers declined the county's offer and will resign instead.
Riverton isn't the first city to contract with the county's animal-services department. Salt Lake City, Herriman, Holladay and Midvale also have contracts, said April Harris, Animal Services Division director.
The county employs 14 animal-control officers and is bringing on another officer because of the Riverton contract, Harris said.
Animals housed at the Riverton shelter will be moved to the county shelter on June 29, Blackwood said.