Lancaster town officials are trying to figure out how to best manage the community’s pooches.
The latest twist came late Monday evening, when the Town Board unanimously approved a late resolution that restructures the staffing approach to the department, whose future has been under intense scrutiny since full-time Dog Control Officer David R. Horn died unexpectedly on the job in early January.
Effective immediately, the board made the dog control officer position part-time permanent, without naming anyone specifically for the job. The department currently has five part-time assistants who are on call.
The new structure would pay the part-time dog catcher $50 for each 24-hour period, pro-rated for any portion that he or she is on on-call status – or at the legally required minimum wage rate, whichever is greater.
The resolution, which came after board members met in executive session for about 30 minutes, stipulates that the part-time permanent dog control officer will not be paid health insurance, sick leave, vacation leave or any other benefits.
Few details were offered just yet about how the arrangement will play out, but it was abundantly clear that town officials are far from done in analyzing how best to provide dog control services in the Town and Village of Lancaster and the portion of Depew that is in Lancaster. It was a resolution forwarded late to Town Hall by legal counsel Jeffrey Swiatek.
Until now, dog control operations have cost the town about $140,428 a year, including staffing, equipment and kennel operations.
But Supervisor Dino J. Fudoli acknowledged that he and staff last week worked on a cost analysis of operations that led to four scenarios. All this comes in the midst of the towns of Clarence and Alden offering to share dog services with Lancaster.
Fudoli later said that a scenario costing about $35,122 for the town is his preference. That plan would have a lead part-time dog control officer in charge, restructured part-time pay, with kennel operations remaining where they presently are, on Walden Avenue.
At the same time, the town has indicated it would like to sell the run-down kennel facility to the Erie County Sewer Authority, which owns land adjacent to the kennels. If the town did sell the Walden property, it would move kennel operations to the town’s new public safety complex on Pavement Road, he said.
“It would still give 24-hour coverage and no loss of services,” Fudoli said. “We could do it for $100,000 less and keep the kennels in town.”
Other cost-benefit scenarios include the current $140,428 structure; a $111,041 option with a full-time dog catcher, kenneling and new part-time dog control officer pay; and then another one for $29,220 with no full-time dog catcher and no kennel and a new part-time dog control officer pay structure.
Fudoli also indicated Lancaster would not go with Clarence’s offer to share services, with Clarence managing much of the lead dog control operations, coupled with assistants in Lancaster and using Clarence’s kennel. He said the town’s savings would have been minimal – only about $2,000 to $3,000. “We probably will not go with Clarence,” he said.
Councilman Mark S. Aquino took a hit from one resident who blasted him for the recent application for dog catcher filed by Thomas J. Irish, whom he termed a business partner of the councilman’s. Fudoli also was upset with Aquino last week, and has posted a comment about it on his personal Facebook page.
But Monday evening, Aquino insisted he had done nothing wrong and is not a business partner of Irish. He said Irish is a tenant of a pizzeria building that he owns. Aquino also said he represents Irish as his business’ attorney. He did say he would recuse himself if the matter came to a board vote.
“He is not a business partner of mine,” Aquino said.