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Bellevue, Mercer Island support King County animal control model

The city of Mercer Island is on board with Bellevue in supporting either a King County or sub-regional animal control program once King County stops offering services on July 1. Last month, the City Council voiced support for a joint, sub-regional animal control services program with Bellevue. However, the Eastside city has since opted for the joint cities-county model, and Mercer Island plans to follow suit.

"The City Council's decision is contingent on Bellevue's decision. If Bellevue goes with the county, we'll also go that route," said Deputy City Manager James Mason.

The city of Bellevue presented two options to City Councilmembers on April 19 and the consensus was to follow "the lowest cost alternative with a priority on finding a way to make the county model work for Bellevue."

For the King County model to be financially efficient, it needs a large number of participating cities. This is why, Mason said, Mercer Island is siding with Bellevue on its decision.

According to the joint cities-county model, King County would be divided into four districts, each staffed by at least one animal control officer. Stray or abandoned animals would be housed at a nonprofit shelter in Lynnwood or at the King County shelter in Kent. This system will cost Mercer Island no money. Bellevue will pay between $200,000 and $300,000, Mason said.

Yet, Bellevue also has a backup plan. Just in case the county model doesn't prove successful, the city is working with King County to "fine-tune" a potential sub-regional model, in which Bellevue would be the animal control provider for itself, Clyde Hill, Mercer Island, Kirkland and Redmond, said Mason.

"The county option is for two and a half years. If things aren't working out, this way we'll have another option to go to. That's Bellevue's perspective, at least," Mason said, adding that the Mercer Island City Council supports this approach. "Both of these options are pretty palatable. Both result in little to no cost for Mercer Island."

King County is currently tallying up its cities' decisions. On Friday, the county will have a refined model based on this information to send back to cities for approval.

King County currently subsidizes its animal control services to contracted cities at an annual cost of approximately $1.9 million. Budget constraints, however, have forced the county to relinquish this service as of July 1.

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