It was raining proverbial cats and dogs on the March17 incarnation of the Vince Anello radio show as Anello and his two guests, Amy Lewis, the executive director of the Niagara County SPCA and Polla Milligan, the newly named SPCA director of development, discussed Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster's plans to operate his own city run animal shelter.
While Ms. Lewis diplomatically said she holds out hope that the mayor will eventually agree to a new contract with the SPCA, her radio host, Vince Anello, repeated loud and often that he failed to see why the city would move to open and operate an animal shelter.
Anello repeated what the Reporter has been writing for the last several months: that a city run animal shelter not only makes zero sense due to construction and startup costs, but it also fails to pass budget muster in light of what are sure to be significant - but as yet unknown - annual operating costs.
While the mayor has earmarked $1.6 million for this year and next year for a total of $3.2 million to build his animal shelter, the mayor has yet to mention the estimated cost to operate and maintain the facility. Since the mayor presently has a zipped lip as to shelter details it's fair for the Reporter to ballpark annual shelter operating costs from a low of $500,000 to a high of $1,000,000...or more.
The county SPCA has 19 employees, operates on 26 acres of land and kennels as many as 90 dogs - most of the dogs being pit bulls - and many cats.
The current annual contract between the city and SPCA is $198,000 and may rise to $225,000 next year.
Dyster claims the SPCA is charging too much for its services. The SPCA countercharges that most of its troublesome dog calls originate in Niagara Falls and so a new contract with the city must rise in cost - above the $198,000 - as Niagara Falls dog calls continue to rise.
The SPCA transformed into a no-kill facility in 2012 and that has meant that dogs stay longer as homes are sought for the animals. The no-kill status and the ever increasing troubled dogs in Niagara Falls translates into added cost for the city and SPCA.
The Reporter will re-state itself on this: It's makes no sense for a city with a curiously unsettled deficit and a debt that has risen to $63,000,000 to enter into the animal shelter business... something that Mayor Dyster said he was going to do in his 2015 state of the city address.
While we see the mayor's proposal as foolish and costly, we believe it is time to consider the very real possibility that Dyster's drive to operate his own animal shelter is far more than just one more example of wasteful government.
We believe it's time to accept the fact that Dyster's plan to spend more than $3,000,000 in casino cash to house cats and dogs is, in reality, a cynical plan to reward consultants, contractors, campaign donors and, as yet, unnamed individuals who will administer the animal shelter.
And we believe that this rush to waste taxpayer cash on a dog pound is but one of many such wasteful projects that have rewarded favored individuals and businesses at the expense of the city taxpayer.
There is a raft of other projects that Mayor Dyster has curiously and consistently rushed to the council for passage with virtually no transparency while providing low to zero information for public consumption.
Isaiah 61, the trash and recycling program, the train station, Jayne Park, the municipal building, the Ice Pavilion and the parking implementation plan are just a few examples where Dyster has foregone transparency while spending millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars.
It's time to step back and put the Dyster animal shelter into a greater perspective, a more focused perspective, a perspective that acknowledges the faulty logic and incredible waste of the project while raising the uncomfortable, but inescapable, reality that the wasteful spending is being done on purpose to reward a select few at tremendous cost to many.