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Town Council considers cut to Whitmore Shelter

June 1, 2012

Rebekah Bone, the animal shelter attendant at Whitmore Shelter on the Benton Crossing Road, spends time with one of her charges at the shelter.

Among the items in the Town council’s Budget Reduction plan is a proposal to slice its $65,000 annual commitment to the Whitmore Animal Shelter.

It is so tucked away that the people whom it would impact, not to mention the sheltered hounds and potential pet pusses, don’t really know anything about it.

“I have not heard anything about that,” said Supervisor Vikki Bauer. “We haven’t made that leap. There’s no decision yet.”

The budget item also blindsided Supervisor Duane “Hap” Hazard, in whose district the shelter lies, and Nancy Boardman, the director of Animal Control Services for Mono County.

Mono County splits the cost of the Whitmore Shelter with the Town of Mammoth.

“That doesn’t seem to be what Mono County wants,” Boardman said.

So far, there has not been a discussion of the future of Whitmore at the Board of Supervisors level, nor at the Town Council level.

Bauer said any discussion currently is at the mediation stage.

The town has undergone various mediation sessions with a number of its “creditors.” The process is designed to close a massive projected budget shortfall, but also it is in advance of any bankruptcy proceedings as a result of the $43 million legal judgment against the town by Mammoth Lakes Land Acquisition (MLLA).

Many things are under the microscope, from Mammoth’s tourism budget all the way to the Whitmore Shelter. The Whitmore Shelter (and Mono County) is a “creditor” in its relation to the Town of Mammoth Lakes.

Under state law, each county is responsible for maintaining an animal shelter. Mono County has two of them—one in Bridgeport and the other at the Whitmore area. There also is a shelter run by Inyo County, in Big Pine.

Nobody who was interviewed for this story could quite get his or her head around a closing of the Whitmore Shelter.

Yet the proposal is there, in black and white, nested among other cost-cutting proposals the town will have to consider in advance of balancing its budget by July 1.

The cost-cutting measure says, “Cancel the contract with Mono County for the Whitmore Animal Control Shelter,” then names the current co-pay, as it were, of $65,000.

In its comments and impact notes alongside the proposed budget cut, the council suggested dire straits for the facility, which is situated on Benton Crossing Road between the Green Church and the Whitmore Pool.
“The County will likely close the shelter,” the document states, “which will require residents of the South County to travel to Bridgeport for animal shelter services.

“It will also require police officers to travel to Bridgeport when impounding an animal.”

The aforesaid proposal, Hazard said, does not make a lot of sense.

He said the Budget Reduction Plan is merely a “sticker price” document, open for negotiation for each expenditure the town is making.

“It’s like going to a new car lot,” he said. “The sticker price is one thing, but what you’ll end up paying is another price.”

He said the negotiation between buyer and seller in this case is similar to where the county finds itself, vis-à-vis mediation with the town. Everything is negotiable, he said.

Mammoth Police Chief Dan Watson said he doubted that the town would actually close the shelter. Stray dogs that are picked up routinely find their way to the shelter for lack of anywhere else to put them, he said. But if the dogs are friendly, he said, officers have a box of Milk Bones (biscuits) at the ready and just wait around until the dog’s human companion shows up.

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