Benton County Sheriff Larry Taylor has what he thinks is a doggone good idea for how West Richland and the county can work together on animal control.
Taylor told county commissioners meeting Monday in Prosser that the county's new 3,200-square-foot animal control shelter to be built off Canal Drive at Quinault Avenue could do double duty. He said when it opens in January it could handle the county's stray and abandoned dogs, as well as loose dogs captured in West Richland.
Taylor asked for commissioners' direction to work out details with West Richland officials and county staff over the next six months.
"I know I can do this," said Taylor, who will be leaving his job as sheriff to take over management of the new animal control facility.
Taylor said West Richland would pay a fee for the service, not unlike how the sheriff's department rents out cells in the Benton County jail to help pay for jail construction and operation costs.
The suggestion drew mixed reactions from the two commissioners present.
Commissioner Max Benitz Jr. balked at the suggestion, saying the county's rural taxpayers should be getting the service because they are paying for it, not the cities.
"We need to go back and re-address the level of service," Benitz said. "I want to be a good partner, I really do, but (we should) get the facility up and then look at expanding it."
But Jim Beaver, commission chairman, said he's interested in whatever proposal could save the county money.
"This board decided we will be in the animal control business and there's an opportunity here to look at ways to be more efficient," he said.
Commissioner Leo Bowman was excused from Monday's meeting for a personal business need.
Taylor said West Richland's mayor, Donna Noski, and the city's lone animal control officer like the idea, knowing the city will lose its current animal control facility at the end of this year.
He said he already expects to face capacity issues with the new facility, which will have 32 kennels that are 4-by-8 feet. But he said he can use cages obtained from a raid last year on a Kennewick puppy mill to supplement those.
"We are going to have capacity issues, even without West Richland, but I can increase capacity and add kennels without any additional fiscal impact at all (to the county)," Taylor said.
He said the commissioners should think about the obligation to do what's best for the whole county, not just unincorporated areas.
"We have a moral and ethical obligation to help West Richland. They're in need and don't have the money," Taylor said.
"I can make this happen. I've been working behind the scenes and have volunteers lined up, from veterinarians to retired sheriff's office staff, a federal officer, judges and teacher," he added.