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County adopts ‘managed competition’ for animal services

REGION — A managed competition approach will determine whether the county of San Diego’s Department of Animal Services or a private contractor will be managing the county’s animal services function.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 Jan. 23 to authorize the initiation of a managed competition process. The county’s Department of Purchasing and Contracting will seek proposals both from qualified external providers of animal services and from the Department of Animal Services.

“This is not about outsourcing,” Supervisor Dianne Jacob said. “This is about managed competition.”

“Managed competition allows the Department of Animal Services to submit a proposal to perform the work,” said April Heinze, the deputy chief administrative officer for the county’s Community Service Group, which includes the Department of Animal Services.

“Managed competition is a healthy approach to government services,” Supervisor Bill Horn said. “In this case it allows the Department of Animal Services to compete against private companies to see who can offer the best animal care at the lowest cost. Ultimately everyone wins: our communities, stakeholders, taxpayers and the animals.”

In March 2017 the county supervisors voted 5-0 to authorize the issuance of a request for interest to determine whether private or other public entities are potentially willing to provide animal welfare, enforcement or other services to fulfill county functions and to issue a competitive solicitation if interest in providing such services exists.  The supervisors also directed the county’s Chief Administrative Officer to prepare potential changes to county code to reflect the potential transition.

The Department of Animal Services provides animal welfare, public protection, enforcement, adoption, sheltering and other services both for unincorporated San Diego County and for six cities which contract with the county for animal services. The contracts with the cities of Carlsbad, Del Mar, Encinitas, San Diego, Santee and Solana Beach all expire on June 30, 2018, and all six contracts include a termination provision which requires written notice one year in advance. Although the county is required to provide certain welfare and enforcement services to the unincorporated area either directly or through a qualified third party the county is not required to provide such services within the territorial limit of any city within the county.  During fiscal year 2015-16 the Department of Animal Services responded to approximately 25,000 calls and only 26 percent of those were in the unincorporated county. The March 2017 action also approved the termination rather than renewal of the contracts with the six cities.

The 2017-18 budget for the Department of Animal Services is $18,728,128. Contract cities provide $12,162,620 of that, license and shelter fee revenues account for $2,855,500, a general fund subsidy (the county subsidizes adoption and licensing fees since charging the county’s full cost would deter adoptions and thus be counterproductive to the goals of an animal shelter which does not euthanize animals other than for health or public safety reasons) provides $3,613,765 and various other revenues fund $96,243.

In April 2017 a request for statement of qualifications was issued. The San Diego Humane Society provided the only response and was deemed qualified. Community stakeholder meetings were held in Ramona, Fallbrook and Bonita in July and August to obtain stakeholder input on expectations and desired service levels in the unincorporated area. In October the county and Service Employees International Union Local 221 agreed to a managed competition procedure to determine whether the work performed could be conducted more economically and efficiently by Department of Animal Services employees than by contracted services.

“Today’s action requests authority to initiate a managed competition process,” Heinze said.

“We believe this is a step in the right direction,” said David Garcias, SEIU Local 221 president. “We hope this process can move forward in a way that minimizes the uncertainty for your county employees.”

Garcias told the supervisors that Department of Animal Services staff could provide the services better than an outsource entity. “We look forward to proving that through this process,” he said.

Spring Valley resident Brianne McKinley noted that the county provides access to information and a private contractor might not. “We must have transparency,” she said. “Access and information are absolutely fundamental.”

Heinze noted that the request for proposals will include standards to be met. “Each proposal will be required to conform to those standards,” she said.

“I think managed competition’s the appropriate way to deal with this issue,” Supervisor Greg Cox said.

“This is a good way to go,” Jacob said.

Since Jacob took office in 1993 the county has outsourced its solid waste and information technology operations. The county considered contracting County Airports services; management of three airports was at one time provided by a contractor but the county still operates the eight airports it owns. The county also retained bus service before allowing Metropolitan Transit System to take over those routes along with MTS routes which connect the city of San Diego to East County.

“I’ve seen in so many cases where our employees win the competition,” Jacob said.

If a private proposal is determined to be the most economical and efficient the Department of Purchasing and Contracting may award a five-year contract with an option for five additional years and staff will return to the Board of Supervisors for the necessary actions to implement the outsourcing of the services.

The county would also provide transition services and placement assistance to Department of Animal Services staff.