Jan 272018

by Jerry Dykhuisen…….

Dear Editor:

Having been raised in Chicago, I figured that I had witnessed government corruption raised to a fine art. After living here for a couple of decades, I must admit, however, that the Windy City has nothing on the powers that be in Monroe County.  With a school superintendent who steals nearly a half million dollars and does no jail time, a principal (who just happens to be the son of a previous superintendent) has tens of thousands of dollars disappear on his watch and is merely reassigned, and an administrator purchases cut rate electronics paid for by the county and keeps his job, the parade never seems to end.

The current mind boggler is the latest development in the Middle/Lower Keys animal control debacle. The Commission recently awarded a contract containing a nearly 60% increase to the Florida Keys Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (FKSPCA) to provide animal control services to the Middle/Lower Keys. The organization was the only bidder – not surprising inasmuch as the Request For Proposal (RFP) was only advertised on one obscure online site.

What makes this scandalous is that some years ago, the vendor handling that same service, Stand Up For Animals (SUFA), had the temerity to request an increase in amount of their contract. The increase was in the neighborhood of 25%. When the County Commission reacted to the request as if SUFA was demanding their first-born child, the request was reduced to 15%. Keep in mind that it was commonly acknowledged, even by the Commission, that SUFA was doing an excellent job providing the required services. They maintained shelters in both Marathon and Big Pine and constantly had, by far, the lowest kill rate of any county provider.

Rather than react rationally, the Commission launched what by all appearances was a personal vendetta against the organization and its director. An allegedly neutral auditor was brought in (something to which no other animal control provider had ever been subjected) and a report was prepared (and leaked to the press) before SUFA had even seen it.  What’s more, the SUFA Director was never even interviewed by the auditor.

But the fix was in.  A bid process was established which was seemingly designed to steer the bid to the friend of a commissioner, e.g. the low bidder was not awarded the contract and at least one member of the “citizen panel” awarded the successful bidder a score of 10 out of 10 in the “Experience” category when that organization was brand new and had never before run a shelter or, for that matter, anything else.

There is no need to go into the details of S.H.A.R.K.’s failures. They could not even run one shelter for the amount of money SUFA used to run two.

But even then, the Commissioners could not let go of their desire for revenge against SUFA. Assets were frozen, lawsuits were filed, and when it was over, SUFA, had prevailed at every level. Between actual settlements, legal fees, and the cost of county staff time, more than a million dollars of taxpayer monies were wasted as a result of their petulance with the outcome that a reliable and competent organization and the career and reputation of an honorable individual were destroyed.

FKSPCA will be receiving almost a half million dollars to provide animal control services and to run a single shelter. Less than ten years ago, SUFA provided the same service and ran two shelters for less than half that amount. FKSPCA indicates that there are currently “eight dogs, 31 cats, and two gerbils” at the shelter. For much less money, SUFA cared for probably three times as many dogs and four times as many cats, but in the commissioners’ minds, they were too expensive.

It is said that numbers don’t lie. In this case the numbers seem to indicate that the petulance of our County Commissioners ran off a vendor who did twice the job for half the money.

Jerry Dykhuisen, Big Pine Key

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 January 27, 2018  Posted by at 12:57 am Issue #253, Letter to the Editor  Add comments

  6 Responses to “The Numbers Don’t Lie”

  1. Amen and hallelujah. Monroe County has never disputed my calculation that killing SUFA has cost We The People over $1 million, and that was BEFORE this last price leap. Thanks for writing, Jerry.

  2. Great job, Jerry. Maybe with all that extra money, they can actually earn some of it by setting up feeding stations for abandoned/stray cats. What else are they going to do with it – pay higher salaries???

  3. Thanks for speaking truth, Jerry.

    The main points I would like to make regarding the poor fiscal decision of the BOCC to give the FKSPCA almost $1million dollars to run two shelters are:

    1. FKSPCA does not (but should) offer FREE or very low cost Spay/Neuter (as was done successfully by SUFA on its limited budget). One can’t control animal population by allowing animals to breed. Most people will not surrender a pet if they know the pet will most likely be killed and this increases the problem. Even rural Georgia offers sterilization clinics to pet owners.

    2. Assign one bilingual animal control person hired for 5pm-10pm (when animals roam and owners are home) 5-7 nights a week to literally walk street by street and door to door to meet the people in the community, ask to see animal licenses and offer FREE or Low cost spay\neuter paid for by FKSPCA and actually enforce the breeding without a license law if there is resistance by an owner.

    If such a program were instituted and the animal control officer was methodic in the coverage of all streets over several years, there would be no need for such an excessive animal control budget because the animals living in the community would not be breeding to cause the problem in the first instance. The animals that would cross the doors would be surrendered animals.

    One other thought regarding the FKSPCA contract… now that Monroe County has thrown a couple million toward the new Key West shelter…. has the BOCC decided that there will be no future bidding when the FKSPCA contract runs out or am I missing something? They now have a monopoly even though their kill rate is very high for an alleged “no kill” shelter.

    • FKSPCA’s contract to run the Key West shelter runs through 2034. I guess that’s the “reward” for kicking in all that $$$ for the new shelter.

      I think the contract for Marathon goes for five years, but I’m going off memory.

      Great suggestions on lowering the kill rate. Do you suppose HACC would be receptive to any of that? Their kill rate is sky high.

  4. With all the money SPCA is getting, they should be transporting animals out of the county for adoption in other areas of the country where they are wanted as most rescues are doing with much less/nearly no money. There is absolutely no reason for them to kill healthy animals – but for their laziness. There are many groups and organizations who will transport animals for minimal cost or free.

  5. Hey, wait a minute! Wasn’t the SPCA already under contract when they decided the needed more moola? This was the ultimate switch and bait…they had already submitted a bid…and our sucker commissioners have backed themselves into a hole with their long term commitment to the SPCA….Result? The SPCA now tells the county what to do rather than vice-versa…

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