By Rebecca J. Barnabi
For Augusta Free Press
LYNDHURST — In the fall, the city of Waynesboro put out a request for proposals to find a private entity interested in either operating the Shenandoah Valley Animal Services Center entirely or in part.
“We have not concluded the RFP process,” said Waynesboro City Manager Mike Hamp.
Hamp said the city is in the process of evaluating proposals, and hopes to conclude that process this week. In about two weeks, the city hopes to make a decision about who will take over operation of the shelter, which serves as the municipal animal shelter for the cities of Waynesboro and Staunton and Augusta County, but is located in Lyndhurst.
The city’s plan has been to make a decision before the end of January 2022. The city serves as the physical location of the shelter, but the three municipalities have a goal to provide the shelter with “enduring and stable leadership.”
According to Hamp, goals also include improving the level of compliance and maintaining customer service. In five years the shelter has had four different managers. Hiring a fifth manager in the fall would have meant five managers in as many years. Hamp said the shelter has maintained a level of success, including a 90 percent save rate, “but not a consistent and enduring policy success.”
While the outcome for animals is of paramount concern for the community, Hamp said that the city has other goals for the shelter to also reach. And, perhaps, a private vendor would provide a better management option for the shelter’s goals.
“And, it may be that it doesn’t but at least we’re exploring that as an option,” Hamp said.
The shelter, which opened more than a decade ago, also has struggled with maintaining full kennel staff in recent years. Keeping a shelter manager and staff is important for the shelter’s overall success.
Hamp said he understands that public comment in the fall at Waynesboro City Council, Staunton City Council and Augusta County Board of Supervisors meetings included concerns about outsourcing the shelter’s ownership, and, if so, maintaining a 90 percent save rate and the shelter’s community partnerships.
“The owners would agree with these outcomes, I think,” he said.
Hamp said that the city and the community have more in common with what each wants to preserve with the shelter than they do not have in common, including preserving proper medical care for the animals.
However, as 2022 begins, municipalities and the U.S. are facing a different labor market, and the purpose of the RFP, according to Hamp, is to address staffing at the shelter. The RFP’s purpose is not to save money. The city is not looking to reduce costs by outsourcing ownership of the shelter.
“Cost is not a criteria of evaluation,” Hamp said.
In each entity’s proposal, it must provide a plan for managing the shelter. Either the private entity would provide employees or the entity would only manage the shelter and provide veterinarian services, while the city provided other positions.
Hamp said he would like to express appreciation to the shelter’s current staff for continuing in their positions while the shelter is short staffed and without a shelter manager.
After more than a decade in operation, the shelter’s success relies on its partnerships with local organizations including Cat’s Cradle and Augusta Dog Adoptions and other groups “who really care about animals.”