An overwhelming number of calls to Mesa’s two-person Animal Control Unit has prompted police officials to consider turning over the responsibility to Maricopa County.
The city’s unit receives an average of 996 calls per month, and residents who need help often must wait on a list of dozens of other callers before an officer arrives, officials said. Budget cuts and employees leaving have made the unit far too small to adequately serve residents.
Mesa police Cmdr. Steve Stahl said the department will present a proposal to the City Council within a couple of months recommending to either increase the current city Animal Control unit to a staff of seven or pay for the county’s services.
“We know what we could do with seven, (and) we know that the service we have now doesn’t compare to seven,” Stahl said. “We believe that with the county we won’t have 60 animal control calls holding.”
Mesa is currently the only city in the East Valley aside from Apache Junction that handles its own animal control, officials said.
According to the drafted proposal, the city budgeted $604,887 for the Mesa Animal Control Unit for the fiscal year 2007-08. Maricopa County Animal Care and Control could provide the service to the city for about $7,000 less, Stahl said.
But Diane Brady, supervisor of the city’s unit, said the city would have to pay about $40,000 a year additionally to continue its contracted service to pick up dead animals, so the cost of using the county would actually be higher than current conditions.
Also, Brady said she believes patrol officers would have an added burden.
“Because Maricopa County doesn’t do everything that we do, the citizens still expect those services to be provided,” Brady said, “so we have been told that those duties would fall to patrol officers and police service officers.”
Stahl said he has no doubt that the city could provide better tailored services for residents, but that with the current budget, it seems unlikely the city could afford the type of staffing that would be needed to handle the residents’ requests.
Stahl said that an evaluation of the department completed in February by an outside firm revealed that changes had to be made, and he has drafted the proposal at the request of police Chief George Gascón.
To add the necessary staffing needed for Mesa’s Animal Control Unit, the city would have to spend $135,000 just for employees and possibly more when vehicle and equipment costs were factored in, Stahl said.
And they might not get the perks that a contract with Maricopa County promises, such as a guaranteed time frame for call response, public education and proactive license campaigns, officials said.
Stahl added, “They must be doing something right if everyone’s using them.”