With two aldermen raising questions about the plan, Evanston’s Human Services Committee Monday postponed action on a recommendation for a new volunteer group to manage the city’s animal shelter.
The Board of Animal Control had recommended that the city accept the proposal from Saving Animals for Evanston, the group that’s been organizing volunteers at the shelter since the city ended its relationship last year with the former shelter group — Community Animal Rescue Effort.
But aldermen Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, and Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, asked for more information about the plan. Under the City Council’s rules, a request for postponement by any two aldermen results in a one-time, one-meeting delay in action on an agenda item.
Fiske said she was concerned that representatives of Tree House Humane Society, the only other group that responded to the city’s request for proposals, were not present at the meeting.
Alderman Judy Fiske.
“I believe they have a very strong interest in serving Evanston and have helped us out so much regarding the crisis with our feral cat population,” Fiske said. While it would be a new approach for them to also take care of dogs, Fiske added, “I believe they could do a good job in doing that.”
Tendam said he appreciated the passion and sincerity of the SAFE volunteers, but added, “I have some concerns about history repeating itself. What sort of protections will be have that this will differ from the former VAO — which ended up walking away with a large amount of money” raised in the name of the city’s shelter?
Alderman Mark Tendam.
Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, responded that any VAO — or volunteer animal organization — would be under contract with the city and that formal written agreement would determine how funds were raised in the name of the shelter.
Grover said the terms of that contract would be worked out once the city had decided which group it wanted to work with.
Alisa Kaplan, co-president of SAFE, said the group isn’t interested in raising funds for itself — but only for the Evanston shelter.
She added that until now the group hasn’t had the authority to do fundraising for the shelter, so its lack of a fundraising track record shouldn’t be held against it. And, she said, the organizers of the new group had been instrumental in raising funds for CARE in the past.
But Fiske said, “Fundraising is a huge part of this. When other organizations are willing to partner with us, I think we need to explore that a little bit.”
“Tree House,” Fiske added, “has 1,000 donors that live in the City of Evanston.”
Jill Cabot, vice chair of the Animal Control Board, said Tree House didn’t mention fundraising in its proposal to the city. “Its only mention of support was marketing support to help recruit volunteers,” Cabot said.
“If we could establish SAFE as the VAO now, they could start fundraising and alleviating some of the costs of the shelter to the city, Cabot said. “Why can’t we explore relationships with other ogranizations once SAFE is established as the VAO?”
Alderman Delores Holmes.
Alderman Delores Holmes said she didn’t want to send the issue back to the Animal Control Board. “They’ve done their job, and now it’s in our court.”
City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said city staff could come up with answers to the questions aldermen raised in time for the next Human Services Committee meeting on May 4, and that in the meantime “any expense of the shelter is an expense of the City of Evanston.”
Once the committee takes action on the board’s recommendation, it will still require approval of the full City Council.