Nederland Council allocates money for pets; reviews street project

Published 11:22 am Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Nederland residents found they may have certain options regarding their pets and their streets in Monday’s City Council meeting.

For one, the city will be continuing their Spay and Neuter program.

“It started during budget process two summers ago,” Chris Duque, city manager, said.

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“We talked about how to long-term control the pet population, and one of the things they talked about was that other cities were doing spay and neuter programs where they offer financial assistance to help pet owners to get their animals spayed or neutered.”

The city council allocated $5,000 for the program last year, according to Duque, out of which they spent about $3,400.

“Over 40 applications were received,” Duque said. “The max I can remember that we ever did for any one family was three pets.”

Duque expressed confidence in the program’s ability to help curtail unwanted population growth of certain pets.

“So, we felt that the project was accomplishing its goal,” Duque said. “It’s not an immediate fix; it is a long-term approach to try to help control the animal population — both for nuisance to the public standpoint but also trying to be humane with those animals.”

The council allocated funds for the new year’s budget.

“So, we talked about it in this year’s budget process and, looking at how much we spent last year, we decided to continue funding that program,” Duque said. “So, we included $3,000 in this year’s budget for it.”

Duque talked about how most governmental programs that offer financial assistance to people have limits on how much money or income they can make before they stop qualifying for it.

Last year’s Spay and Neuter program did not have a financial cap; so, that was changed this year — to adjust the cap to a $150,000 annual income.

“We’ll roll that program out in mid- to late January,” Duque said.

“Applications are posted on our website. We’ll also share links on our Facebook pages for the City and for the animal shelter.

“We’ll have copies out front (of City Hall). People can come in, fill it out and apply.”

Duque explained some requirements of the application process.

“They will have to submit a copy of their driver’s license and a copy of their utility bill; and that’s how we verify their residency,” Duque said.

Among the information that applicants will put down is: their contact information, type of animal (dog or cat), the number of people living in the household and the annual household income.

“One of the things that we require to participate is the animal must be vaccinated,” Duque said. “The animal must be up to date with their vaccinations; if not, it’s the applicant’s responsibility to do that.”

Regarding the ongoing discussion of the Nederland Avenue Project, certain engineers and financial advisors were on hand to review more options.

“We had the engineering firm, Schaumburg & Polk in Beaumont, and our financial advisor, which is U.S. Capital Advisors. They came in to go over some more details with the city council,” Duque said.

Duque said that they presented the initial report to the public as a whole overview to better inform them.

“We wanted them to have a full understanding of all the issues that are involved with this project,” Duque said.

“When we went to public forum, we wanted to do more of an education thing — to say here’s the full extent of the issues, here’s the time frame, etcetera.”

According to Duque, the discussion of the Nederland Avenue Project on Monday was to better see the options available when reducing the scope of such a project.

“We spent a lot of time on the full scope of the project (before),” Duque said. “So, we wanted to see what options they would have if they narrowed the scope of the project.”

It would allow the engineers and financial group to discuss options if they wanted to narrow the project’s scope, according to Duque.

“If we did that smaller route, what’s the time frame? Potentially how much money (would it be) to do it that way?” Duque offered as examples.

“And financial people were there to give (us) information on how it affects taxes and the time frame to issue the money.”

Duque emphasized the importance of the date Feb. 18, 2017.

“Feb. 18 is the deadline for the city council to decide whether it will go on the ballot,” Duque said. “If they were to go with the full project, they would have to place a proposition on the ballot, calling for a bond election.”

Informally speaking, a bond election would be a special election that would be held allowing the taxpayers to decide whether or not the city would authorize payment for the project.

As far as projected estimates for the Nederland Avenue Project, Duque said that they have stayed much the same. All together, the project is a potential $17.6 million.

“It’s pretty much stayed steady. They put in some contingency — you have to account for possible inflation. If the economy improves, prices could be less competitive,” Duque said. “There’s a lot of unknowns when you’re potentially talking about 12 months from today.”

In regard to public feedback, Duque said that he and the council have received a good amount of input.

“We’re still getting feedback, and, I think that’s going to help shape their decision on how to proceed with that project.”

Duque emphasized the extent to which the council had made a decision regarding it.

“Thus far, the only decision that the city council has actually taken action on in regard to Nederland Avenue is to authorize that study,” Duque said. “Everything else has been purely discussion.”