Unable to muster enough Common Council votes to reinstate the animal control officer’s position, Mayor Dayton King said he will use his executive authority to keep Kelly Warner on the city payroll.
The council voted in January to eliminate the post, one of a number of jobs cut to balance the 2010 budget.
Under terms of her contract, she was given 30 days’ pay and the option to keep working or take the period as a final vacation. Warner’s last day would have been today.
The council voted 3-to-2 Wednesday to reinstate the post, but a quorum on the seven-member body is four, and Councilman Jay Zarrelli, R-5th Ward, was absent, and the 6th Ward seat is vacant.
Confronted with that no-action vote and with no possibility of getting the measure passed by today, King said Thursday he would exercise the executive authority provided in the City Charter to retain Warner.
The charter allows him to transfer up to 2 percent of a department’s budget without first seeking council approval, he said. Council approval is needed to transfer funds between departments.
King said he is working with Police Chief Edgar Beaudin to identify the necessary funding — about $45,000 for the year for pay and benefits — for the post.
If Warner was cut, he said, it would still cost the city about $30,000 for unemployment benefits and Warner’s health insurance.
King said City Attorney Matthew E. Trainor has discovered that the city, as an issuer of dog licenses, would be in violation of state Agriculture and Markets Law if it had no animal control officer.
Police spokesman Capt. James Lorenzoni said Warner is crucial to both the city and the department, especially given the council’s decision to eliminate four vacant police positions.
“She provides a vital function for this city,” he said, noting that police officers are not equipped, trained or vaccinated to handle animals.
With only two officers available most days for patrols, he said they have no time to capture a stray dog and transport it to the Mayfield kennel provided under contract by veterinarian Dr. Peter Bluvas.
Lorenzoni said it would cost about $10,000 for the rabies vaccinations that officers would require to work with stray and wild animals.
“We’re encouraged by the mayor’s decision,” Lorenzoni said. Opponents of the decision, he said, may not be considering that license and other fees make the job “relatively self-sustaining.”
Categories: Schenectady County