Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mid Year FY2011 Budget Briefing and Q&A for DER

This morning, Friends of Prince George's County Animals attended the Transportation, Housing and Environment Committee of the County Council's meeting.
Good news!  The Committee voted easily to endorse the Maryland State initiative for offshore wind power generation, with a nod to the potential for Green Jobs for Marylanders and specifically, Prince Georgians!

Also, the Committee voted out a bill for assistance to HIP for some housing improvement funding.  Yeah!

The Department of Environmental Resources, or DER, was up next.  Sam Wynkoop, acting Director of DER, distributed an Organization Chart to the Committee members for his Department, and introduced his management team members as well as the person who runs animal control.

Overall, Wynkoop reported that DER is in reasonably good shape in terms of budget.  Recoveries lag behind the expenditures, but Budget Director Tom Himler pointed out that's normal because a lot of these recoveries will be made near the end of the Fiscal Year.  There was no amount approved for Capital Outlays, so no progress is reported on capital expenses (that's buildings and plant costs, I believe).  DER was approved for $20,483, 500 for FY2011, and overall has expended $11,697, 477 of that or 57%.  (These figures are only for the GENERAL FUND in DER; DER also operates an Enterprise Fund and Stormwater Management Fund, which I'm omitting detailed discussion of here).

A table was presented detailing the response from DER to the question,

Please provide the information requested in the table below for ALL (GF01, Enterprise Funds, etc) of the Department's FY2011 currently executed, planned and not yet executed, and potential new contracts.  All operational, administrative, personal service and any other contracts must be identified and reported.  A separate brief narrative should be provided in the comment section following the table that identifies the conditions and circumstances that have contributed to or could contribute to the need for any contracts identified in the 'potential new contracts' section.
The table consists of a Vendor/Contractor Name, whether it is a Minority Business Enterprise or not, the FY 2011 Actual/Estimated Contract Amount, the Contract Term, the Number of Years in contractual relationship (including FY2011), whether the contract relationship is anticipated beyond the FY, a summary of contract services, and a comments box.

A total of five of the lines in the table indicate in the Comments are that they "Replaced Animal Protection League Contract" and the total outlay for them for FY 2011 comes to  $45,400.  But all of the listed contractors are veterinary clinics or veterinary professionals.  Since the Animal Protection League contract was for all animal care services, it begs the question whether NO routine day-to-day care is provided for animals impounded in Upper Marlboro.

Several line items not identified as such in the Comments section, also appear to be for veterinary care or for emergency veterinary care.   These total $65,000.  So the total AMD expenditure so far for FY2011 for veterinary care is $110,400.

Remember that these are County revenues that are applied to veterinary expenses.  Recall that there is a surgery suite paid for by our tax dollars sitting dark and empty in the large new facility constructed using our tax dollars in Upper Marlboro.  Contract services are often more costly than hourly services.  When is there going to be a veterinary operation accessible to animals impounded in Prince George's County, who are often injured or ill on intake, who are currently dumped into a cage and left to wait until a qualified veterinary professional visits, or until some staffer who may imagine herself to be "in the industry" chooses to make her own examination of the cat or dog?

So, okay.  Veterinary care is something that at least makes sense to see being listed as a budget item for an organization that deals with animals.

But there are some very intriguing other items in the list, and there's the nagging lack of a SINGLE listing for personal services contracts, though it's been a given that this was how care was being delivered for impounded animals.

One company was paid $41,200 so far for "Custodial Cleaning & Deoderizing Service" -- and the table indicates this contract is anticipated to continue.  It's with a non County company too.  Another non-PG contract for "Removal of animal carcass" was for $75,000, and has been a contractor for seven years, with anticipation it will continue, although this is not an MBE contractor.

A $24,000 contract is with HLP, the company that claims to support Chameleon, the software program used at the facility to track animal intakes and disposition.  This contractual relationship is 14 years old.  HLP is also not a county business nor an MBE, but is expected to continue to receive the contract in future years.

There seem to be no personal services contracts listed at all.

More promises got made in the meeting.  For instance, Taylor, the animal control guy, again made the promise that "real soon now" there would be a spay/neuter clinic operating in Upper Marlboro.  Only, he said that a "proposal for a pilot program" was with Central Services even now.  The trouble is that nothing about spay/neuter is "pilot" material.  Spay/neuter is a routine operation, one that can be set up with minimal fuss, and with pretty predictable operating conditions.  PG County isn't innovating in providing spay/neuter services.  A pilot is supposed to prove a concept.  What does Taylor think he is about to prove?  But, he's a smooth operator, that's for sure.

Between a contract with Bayer Animal Health and a second with Webster Veterinary, the cost for pharmaceuticals for animals totals $101,050.  We can't say, but would guess this is in addition to medications administered by the veterinary professionals.  Neither of these is an MBE, nor a County business, and both are anticipated to continue as contractual arrangements.

An additional promise made today:  that soon, "euthanasia" and other statistics will follow the Asilomar Accords reporting structure .... so that, in the words of Taylor, "we'll have regional statistics."  Trouble is, who needs regional stats when the region is a mish-mash of varied policies and programs regarding animal issues?  There sure isn't agreement about what to do for spay/neuters, nor for providing animals with foster care.  All that regional stats are going to do is blur the definition of need and the identification of problems.  Ah, how convenient.  And on this effort, Taylor says he is working "almost once a week" with the glorious HSUS.


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