Sutter County Animal Services Authority 'marriage' troubled
The Sutter Animal Services Authority Board of Directors needs a marriage counselor.
That was the consensus at a special meeting Monday of the regional agency charged with building a new animal shelter and transferring operations to Yuba City.
"If I was in a bad marriage, would I move forward on building a house?" asked authority member John Dukes, a Yuba City city councilman, of an ongoing rift with Sutter County that threatens the project. "I don't know if that would be the wisest thing to do."
Construction is expected to be delayed at least until November, pending resolution of labor-related issues, and what authority members have said is general deterioration of trust.
Breaking ground on the new facility appears to be contingent upon the three parties — Sutter County, Yuba City, and Live Oak — being able to resolve the differences.
At issue are terms under which workers at the existing animal shelter are to be transferred to Yuba City once a new shelter is built and operations taken over by the city.
"It's a bunch of bull, and another delay tactic to me," said Larry Munger, an authority board member and Sutter County Supervisor.
Munger's comments reflect more than six years of back-and-forth finger pointing between the county and city during failed attempts to negotiate for a new shelter.
"We never could get along, and what we finally did was told administrators they had so many days — let's get this figured out," Munger said.
Monday's meeting was attended by more than 40 members of a new community group that calls itself Build Our Sutter Animal Shelter. The group is made up of members of two former grand juries, two taxpaper watchdog groups and two animal welfare groups.
A metaphor equating the authority to a marriage raised its head repeatedly during the meeting.
"We're already married. We're stuck with each other," said authority member and Sutter County Supervisor Stan Cleveland.
"I've been in a marriage 25 years, and it's not always a rosey path," said Sutter County Employee Association representative Gary Stucky. Stucky now also represents Yuba City employees.
"You have to be committed to the marriage and willing to work through the issues and problems," Stucky said.
Terms of the authority's relationship were finalized a year ago, and since then, administrators finalized building plans, put the project to bid, help award a contract and have begun to develop key policies and procedures for the yet-to-be-built facility.
Whether or not Yuba City will be obligated to rehire workers whose tenure pre-dates the shelter's recent reforms appears to be a potential deal-breaker.
City Manager Steve Jepsen said Monday the county's recent involvement of an attorney into correspondence about employee transfer details has raised the issue to an unnecessarily high level of concern.
"Legal counsel has put Yuba City on notice," he said of a confidential memo issued several weeks ago from Sutter County's attorney. "Once you choose the path to follow advice of your attorneys, that's the beginning of the end for the JPA."
Jepsen said the building contractor has been notified that a notice to proceed would be at least a month later than anticipated, and has agreed to keep the basic terms of the contract.
The delay may require some additional compensation.
A cancellation of the contract would cost the authority a minimum of $50,000, according to George Musallam, director of Public Works for Yuba City.
Not everyone thought the marriage/marriage counselor metaphors were apt.
"Send in a hostage negotiator," said Stephanie Ruscigno of the Yuba-Sutter Tea Party Patriots after most of the talking was done. "They're holding us hostage. That's what they're doing to us."
CONTACT Nancy Pasternack at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-4781. Find her on Facebook at /ADnpasternack or on Twitter at @ADnpasternack.