Curt Romander: Save Sammie’s no-kill shelter | TheUnion.com

Curt Romander: Save Sammie’s no-kill shelter

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Curt Romander

Recently, we received the news that our proposal to continue to operate the Nevada County Animal Shelter was rejected by "county officials."

We believe that we presented a very fair and well thought out proposal that covered all of the conditions and concerns that were addressed in the Request for Proposal back in December.

For years, Sammie's Friends has found it necessary to subsidize the operations at the shelter to ensure that we maintained an exceptionally low euthanasia rate (less than 1 percent). We did this by providing essential medical care for the sick and injured animals that came to the shelter.

The funds for this came from you, the community, which has provided unbelievable support for our program.

Our efforts have earned us a very good reputation in our community, around the state and even the nation. But that is all at risk now.

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We have raised funds through grants to improve the infrastructure (cat building and dog exercise areas) at the shelter and have raised thousands of dollars to provide spay/neuter vouchers for low-income families in the community.

When we saw it necessary to increase services at the shelter, we provided funding by opening the very successful Sammie's Nifty Thrift store that brought us to the level of service we offer today: exceptional veterinary care, very low euthanasia, high quality socialization for the dogs and cats, incredible volunteer support and very good customer service. Our efforts have earned us a very good reputation in our community, around the state and even the nation. But that is all at risk now.

What we have accomplished was the vision of co-founder Cheryl Wicks: to provide services to see that there were no more homeless pets in Nevada County. We started small, but the community rallied to support us and we have responded by creating an animal-friendly culture in this community that is too valuable to let pass.

Let's review the current situation. As many of you know, Cheryl and I cannot continue to do the things we have been doing for the past 17 years. To ensure the long-term health of Sammie's Friends, we proposed to Nevada County that there be funds in a new contract to replace ourselves. We have been working at the shelter for the past eight years at less than minimum wage, believing that it would be best to use our talents to build the organization and save any salaries we might be paid for the benefit of the animals. We cannot expect anyone to replace us at the rate we are being paid. Instead, we proposed reasonable resources to accomplish this goal. We consulted with other nonprofits that do what we do and based our decision on that research.

We also believe the County should up its efforts to have more "skin in the game." At the suggestion of the veterinarian of record at the shelter, we added a part-time staff position for a registered veterinary technician to help manage the health of the animals at the shelter. We included baseline veterinary care that is required of all animal shelters in California (and the nation). While this is not a significant portion of our proposed budget, it is important the County participate in this very important function.

In our first go-around in contracting with the County to operate the shelter, we overlooked important infrastructure costs like accounting (I personally handled this for many years), legal assistance, dedicated safety officer, information technology (yes, I did this too) and vehicle costs as well as maintenance (me again). All of these expenses were considered in our proposal and we all know that the County has these services built into their operations.

The net of all this is that we proposed to operate the shelter for the first year of a three-year program at a cost of $743,000.

Lt. Sam Brown is on record for saying the County can operate the Shelter for about $650,000, including handing off many of the animals to Placer County (not a no-kill shelter) at some unknown expense. This does not make sense to us at all.

The County would be giving up the $230,000 that Sammie's Friends has committed to the veterinary care of the shelter animals, the good will of volunteers who do the equivalent of eight full-time employees' work and the valuable support of county residents.

The way we see it, for an investment of $743,000 by the County, it would receive the benefit of about $1,147,000 of enhanced animal services. For $650,000, the County will get basic services.

For updates on this issue, check out Sammie's Friends Facebook page.

Curt Romander is co-founder of Sammie's Friends, along with Cheryl Wicks. He has been a resident of Nevada County for 18 years.

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