By JIM KEVLIN • Special To AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – Richard Sternberg, saying he was acting on behalf of the Susquehanna SPCA, told what appeared to be a partly surprised county Board of Representatives this evening that the Shelter will begin unilaterally levying fees Jan. 1 on county entities and towns that require its services.
“We will be initiating a billing system,” said Sternberg, the retired Bassett surgeon and Cooperstown village trustee, who said he was acting as an adviser to the Shelter’s Board of Directors.
Speaking at the public hearing on the 2020 county budget at the county courthouse, he said when Executive Director Stacie Haynes’ time is required, a fee of $80 an hour will be levied, with quarter-hour increments. For other staff members, it will be a $40 hour fee, plus $30 per day for caring for each animal housed at the shelter, and 65-cent-per-mile mileage if staffers’ or Shelter vehicles are used.
Sometimes, the county Sheriff’s Department drops off dogs; in that case, the Sheriff’s Department would be charged, Sternberg said. If 911 makes the placement, 911 would be charged. Some towns have contracted with the Shelter; but those that haven’t would be charged according to the same schedule if local dog control officers ask for help. In places like the Village of Cooperstown, which has its own police force, it would be charged if its officers drop off a dog or asked for the shelter’s services.
Sternberg reported the Shelter’s operating budget – not including construction costs – amounted to $719,499.01 in 2018, and said about 10 percent of usage comes from the county, meaning – if this approach stands – county government could expect to be charged $70,000 next year.
At the end of Sternberg’s presentation, county board Chairman David Bliss, R-Cooperstown/Town of Middlefield, told Sternberg the public hearing was just for the budget as it stands, and since no money is now in the budget, the issue could not be discussed in that forum.
County Sheriff Richard J. Devlin, Jr., who was in the audience, said he believes the Shelter deserves some county support. However, he said he’s unsure if the unilateral fee schedule is enforceable.
During his presentation, Sternberg mentioned a meeting with a county board committee last Friday.
There, he said later, retiring county Rep. Kathy Clark, R-Otego, when presented with the SSPCA ultimatum, asked that a detailed list of donors’ names in the current Shelter Us fund drive and the amount donated should be supplied to the county before any decision is made.