Forget budget cuts and shortfalls! The real question these days at city hall is “who let the dogs out?” I’m kidding about the title, but not the brewing battle. It appears people are very concerned about who is in charge of Animal Control. From day one, the mayor has said he was going to look for ways to streamline government, find savings and increase services. He made headlines a few months ago when he decided to re-organize the Department of Economic Development. His latest proposal may not get through council as easy. His administration wants to abolish the Department of General Services. Then move the 311 Call Center to Public Utilities. The print shop would go to Information Technology. Fleet management would be headed by Public Works. And then there’s Animal Control. The administration also wants to move it under Public Works. Some are pushing for the department to be headed by the Richmond Police. (Henrico County’s Animal Control is set up this way.) We learned today, the Police Chief is against the idea, so is the Mayor and CAO Byron Marshall. At a council breakfast they said, Animal Control would be better suited under Public Works. They’ve also moved to fill three vacant Animal Control Officer positions and will start getting more information out about the department through the Public Information Officer of Public Works.
One source tells me this idea could split the council 5-4 and no one seems to know which way that vote would go.Kathy Graziano said today, “The bottom line is not what department does it. The bottom line is do we get the job done?” At the meeting Byron Marshall, said Public Works would be better suited because it had the resources and man power. He also said better supervision by Public Works could lead to more animal adoptions and even more revenue for the city from people applying for animal tags. Councilman Bruce Tyler raised the biggest stink today. He questions Public Works’ ability to handle all the new programs. Tyler said, “My biggest concern is that we’re creating a department that’s too big. We’re setting them up to fail.” He went on to say, “This is already one of the city’s largest departments and its track record is not good.” He sighted problems with the tree planting and removal program. He also pointed out the department’s trouble keeping up with Richmond’s pothole filled roads.
CAO Marshall said those problems are real, but are a money issue. He pointed out that the department was underfunded the last five years. And he said in this upcoming budget, the mayor will recommend more funding for Public Works for city roads and new city trees.