LAS VEGAS SUN – Clark County attorneys are exploring how a mold infestation at the county’s animal control offices at Dewey Animal Care Center will affect its $1.1 million-a-year contract with the privately run animal shelter. The contract has provisions that allow nearly 20 county animal control officers and dispatchers to work out of an office at the facility off Decatur Boulevard. But after workers complained of illnesses and mold was found in the office walls, employees were moved out of the building in May and do not plan to return. “We’re not moving back and reoccupying that space,” said Shannon West, the county’s assistant parks director who oversees animal control. “Our employees are extremely concerned about their health.” County commissioners rejected Dewey’s request for a contract extension last year and the agreement expires in 2005, according to Jim Spinello, assistant administrative director.
The county is uncertain whether the contract will be affected by animal control officers moving out. “It’s something we’re reviewing right now,” Spinello said. “It’s in the hands of the DA to see how one piece fits into the others.” Mary-Anne Miller, the commission’s attorney, did not immediately return a phone message. Though Dr. Joseph Freer, president of the animal shelter, said no mold has been found in areas where animals are kept, the discovery comes at a critical point for the shelter as county officials are examining other shelter options.
In March 2001 — four years before his current contract was set to expire — Freer attempted to persuade commissioners to grant him a five-year extension. Freer argued that he needed a longer term financial commitment from the county before he renovated the shelter, which Dewey has operated since 1985. He offered to build a $10 million state-of-the-art facility. Commissioners, who reviewed county reports about cats being stacked in cages in the arrival areas for more than 24 hours and wet and cold kennels, rejected Freer’s request. Joe Boteilho, manager of Clark County’s animal control division, declined to discuss the conditions at Dewey other than to say they are “static, no improvements have been made.” An animal advisory committee assembled by the commission is exploring options other than Dewey. The most promising proposal is a regional animal care “campus” adjacent to Lied Animal Shelter on Mojave Road and Bonanza Avenue.
The Las Vegas City Council gave staff members permission to begin working with the county on the proposal. “We’ve been tasked to take a look at what our other options are, and talk in clear terms so the board can make an educated decision on what to do,” Boteilho said. Freer balked at the proposal, arguing that the government would spend about $12 million on the complex when Dewey can provide the same services with no added cost, only a contract extension. “Why would they want to spend $12 million when they have private industry that can redo the kennel at the existing site,” Freer said. “The owner of the building would take out old kennels and put in new kennel facilities and it’s a matter of zero dollars.” Freer said most of the $1.1 million it receives from the county annually goes toward salaries and rent.
This year money was also spent on air-conditioning and heating in the kennels, reconstructed rooftops and painting the facility. The mold, Freer said, is simply what happens to older buildings in the Las Vegas Valley. “There is not an old building in this community that doesn’t have mold,” he said. “Go look in your bathroom, look behind your sink, you’ll find mold.” The county’s advisory committee is expected to make a presentation to commissioners regarding their options next month.