Maloney grilled on shelter takeover costs

Councilmen charge him with making scenario look rosy in June

This rendering shows how the memorial to Gen. Vang Pao, which the City Council approved Tuesday, will look.

This rendering shows how the memorial to Gen. Vang Pao, which the City Council approved Tuesday, will look.

PHOTO Courtesy city of chico

Police Chief Mike Maloney was in the hot seat at the Tuesday (Nov. 15) City Council meeting, when two councilmen, Bob Evans and Mark Sorensen, implied, in so many words, that he’d sandbagged them last June on the cost of running the Chico animal shelter.

The occasion was Maloney’s presentation of the final plan for the city’s takeover of the shelter from the Butte Humane Society, which has run it for more than 25 years, under contract with the city.

The change is the result of the realization that neither party to the current arrangement wants to continue it, Maloney told the council. In June, the city and BHS signed a contract that will return operation of the shelter to the city by Feb. 1, 2012. BHS will continue to manage marketing, adoptions and the spay-and-neuter clinic.

In his presentation, Maloney said that, while his department could run the shelter for the next few months without additional revenues beyond what is currently allocated—augmented by some money freed up for the time being by an unfilled police position—he cautioned that more funding might be needed down the road.

This upset Evans. Saying the chief had just made him “more nervous,” he noted that in June Maloney had said the changeover would be “neutral money-wise indefinitely, not just this year.”

Sorensen said that was how he’d heard it, too.

After considerable back-and-forth along these lines, with Evans especially insisting that either he’d been misled or the chief had erred in his calculations, Maloney acknowledged that, as his department had worked with Human Relations to write job descriptions and set salaries, his understanding of the costs had changed.

“There are a lot of unknowns,” he said. For that reason, all staffing (seven full-time, four part-time, in addition to the current three people in Animal Control) will be on a contractual basis for two years. That will give the city the flexibility to let people go if it turns out they’re not needed.

Structurally, the plan will create a new service branch supervised by Support Division Capt. Lori McPhail and headed by an Animal Services manager. That person will oversee a registered veterinary technician, an animal care technician and eight animal-care attendants, four of them half-time.

Every effort will be made to reduce costs by, for example, using volunteers as much as possible, Maloney said.

The council approved the plan 4-2, with Evans and Sorensen dissenting and Andy Holcombe absent.

In other council news: With about three dozen members of the local Hmong community looking on, the council deliberated on whether to OK the placement of a donated memorial statue of Gen. Vang Pao, the recently deceased leader of the Hmong community in America.

Three possible sites for the memorial had been identified. All were just outside the City Council chambers building.

The memorial—a statue of the general in uniform—had been vetted and unanimously approved by the city Art Commission, even though, as Vice Mayor Jim Walker pointed out, it wasn’t a work of art and the city had no policy regarding memorials.

Butte County Supervisor Larry Wahl, a former councilman, gave an impassioned speech in support of the memorial, noting that the general had been “an avid anti-communist guerrilla leader” allied with the United States during the Vietnam War and had “rescued dozens of [downed] American pilots.” (Wahl was himself a Navy pilot during the war.)

Council members agreed the city needed a policy and that the memorial was “unprecedented,” and they agreed to develop a policy for use in the future, but for now they unanimously voted to approve it.

It will be located immediately to the right of the stairs on the Main Street side of the building. As Walker noted, the general will face the American war memorial in the City Plaza across the street.