Last week a concerned citizen sent us an email he/she sent to each Great Falls city commissioner concerning the secret meetings going on between two commissioners, Moe and Robinson, and the MaClean Animal Foundation. These negotiations continue to be conducted secretly in order to intentionally exclude public scrutiny and input.
Four commissioners responded to this taxpayer’s concerns, one did not – Tracy Houck. Below is the content of the email and the responses, all of which are public record.
I have been following the articles about the addition to the Great Falls Animal Shelter Cattery. I congratulate the Citizens of our community who donated all the money needed for this addition. I am very proud of this group of people.
On the other hand I am not very happy about the City Commission deciding some kind of merger should be put in place between the Maclean Foundation and the City Animal Shelter. I feel this deal is a bad one. It leaves City taxpayers paying all the bills for a private foundation. This is another poor decision by City Commission.
Taxpayers voted for the Park Plan increases and now the golf courses have been turned over to a private identity and the Natatorium is shut down due to unsafe conditions. Why don’t you spend your time working on updating items which help the taxpayers of this city instead of wasting our money on a private foundation. This City losses more money on stupid ideas than any place I have ever seen.
I will not bother to itemize the 15 and quarter million dollars lost in the last decade to stupidity. The City does not need to take on yet another waste of money project. Please start working for the benefit of our citizens and taxpayers.”
Bill Bronson’s response:
“Thank you for your e-mail and your comments.
I agree with your comment concerning the cattery. That is why I was not in agreement with the initial decision to postpone consideration of the successful bid, and why I supported the initiative to rescind that action, bring the matter back, and allow the bid and construction to go forward. The cattery is very much needed at this time, given the size of the abandoned cat population and the need to treat these animal humanely while they await adoption by caring individuals.
As to your statements about a proposed “merger” with Mclean, your e-mail presents an opportunity to set the record straight as to what is actually before the Commission. There is no proposal of any kind for the City Commission to consider at this time, let alone a “merger” plan. It is true that my colleagues, Commissioners Moe and Robinson, have had some communications with representative of Mclean, but they have not presented anything back to the City Commission for consideration as of this date. At the last work session, Commissioner Robinson indicated that he and Ms. Moe are planning to present a summary of their communications to the full commission at a work session in July. This is a public meeting, during which anyone can come and listen to their presentation. This will also give interested members of the public and opportunity to digest any of their recommendations before any final proposal comes before the Commission.
Any final proposal that is brought forward will have to be vetted by our staff, especially as the the financial aspects and any legalities associated with it. It will then have to go before the full Commission, in a public meeting, with opportunity for public comment, before any decision is made.
I acknowledge that some people think that some kind of a proposal has already been made to the full Commission, or has been acted upon. It hasn’t. I also know there is a document out there that lays out some ideas for a working relationship between the City and Mclean. I have seen that document. Frankly, I would not support the essentials of that proposal, as laid out, for several reasons, but I won’t get into those, as I doubt that anything of that kind will ever make its way to the full Commission.
I appreciate your concerns and would invite you to continue staying tuned to the process, and to comment on any final proposals that may come forward. I will need input from the interested public before making any decisions of my own; the subject of animal care and protection is a complicated one, and I will need all the factual information I can get in order to make good decisions.
Thank again for reaching out.
Mary Moe’s response:
Thank you for contacting me directly. My interest in a partnership with the Maclean Animal Care Center is based solely on the public interest in providing at least the same quality of care for animals while accruing substantial savings and/or increased revenues to the City. When we are unable to allocate the public funds necessary to staff our police and fire departments sufficiently, it is difficult to justify duplicating animal care services that other entities provide.
If the discussions Commissioner Robinson and I are engaging in with representatives from the Maclean do not arrive in a partnership that will be significantly beneficial to the City from a financial perspective, neither of us will bring a proposal forward. There’s a lot of work to do before that day comes, but I continue to believe the potential benefits to the City are worth the effort.
Again, thank you for contacting me. I appreciate hearing from you.
Bob Kelly’s response:
“Good morning —-,
Thank you for your note below. The decision on any change regarding the current relationship between the Maclean Animal group and the City run Animal shelter will be contingent on the taxpayers of Great Falls achieving substantial savings and animals receiving the same or better care. Absolutely no decision has been made regarding changing this relationship; there are merely exploratory conversations between the interested parties. If, in fact, a proposal does come forward, it will need to be placed on a City Commission agenda for approval. The public will have an opportunity to comment and question any part of the proposed agreement. Again, we are trying to create efficiencies with taxpayers funds and would hope to direct any realized savings to other areas of concern, including public safety. Our goal is certainly NOT to increase our expenses for animal care.
However, at this time, no proposals have come forward to the City Commission. Your concern and comments will be appreciated when, and if, there is a recommendation to change the current relationship.
Please stay in touch.
Owen Robinson’s response:
Thank you for your inquiry concerning possible cooperation between the City’s Animal Shelter and Maclean. It is very early in the research phase, so it is not possible to predict any proposal which may be forthcoming nor the acceptance by the other three Commissioners to such a proposal. However, I can tell you that both Commissioner Moe and I will not make any proposal to the full Commission unless it can produce significant savings for the City – savings which could better be used for urgent needs such as public safety. So to your point, our goal is to save money which will be used “updating items which help the taxpayers of this city”. If we can’t find significant guaranteed savings for the City, we will move on without making a proposal.
Again, thank you for your inquiry.