Officials eye animal shelter solutions, one-year timeline: Blythe Council form, appoint Ad Hoc Committee

“Thank you, community members from Blythe for driving out here and for sticking around this late, all day. (For) spending your day with us; (we) appreciate you and I definitely do support the idea of figuring out how we could form a stronger partnership, if you will, (in) trying to figure out what we will do with that shelter moving forward,” stated Riverside County 4th District Supervisor V. Manuel Perez on June 14 following public comment by Blythe leadership and community members. “I appreciate the points made by you and by others that came on your behalf. So, thank you for that.” Pictured, left to right: Riverside County 5th District Supervisor and Vice Chair Jeff Hewitt; Palo Verde Valley chapter CWA (California Women for Agriculture) President Debra Stroschein Keenan; Riverside County 4th District Supervisor V. Manuel Perez; Blythe Chamber of Commerce President Kati Cusick; Blythe Vice Mayor Joey DeConinck; Riverside County 2nd District Supervisor and Chair Karen Spiegel; and Blythe Chamber of Commerce Board member Sandra Berger-Anderson.

On July 13, the Blythe City Council unanimously approved and Mayor Dale Reynolds set two appointments for an Ad Hoc Committee to address the future of the Blythe Animal Shelter.

“The Blythe Animal Shelter is owned and operated by the County of Riverside. The City has an agreement for Animal Shelter Services with the County. Any stray or animal found at large within the City limits that cannot be returned to its owner is taken to the shelter. County Animal Officials transport animals found in the unincorporated area of the County surrounding Blythe to this facility. Requirements of the Animal Shelter Agreement include the City paying its fair share for use of the facility,” stated the City of Blythe’s background report. “The Shelter has been under the threat of closure twice in the last two years. Each time, City officials and community members have petitioned the Board of Supervisors to keep the Blythe shelter open. The City was successful each time, but during the County budget hearing on June 14, 2021, it was made clear that the City would need a long term plan for shelter services past this year. It is not anticipated the County will fund operations at the Blythe Shelter past June 30, 2022.”

On June 15, the second day of respective budgetary hearings, the Riverside County Budget for FY (Fiscal Year) 2021-2022 saw 4th District Supervisor V. Manuel Perez and the board members approve $360,000 toward keeping the Blythe Animal Shelter open for another year.

The decision followed Perez’s support on June 14, as well as the preceding grassroots community advocacy efforts and public comments from Blythe Vice Mayor Joey DeConinck, Blythe City Councilmember Johnny Rodriguez, Blythe Chamber of Commerce President Kati Cusick, Blythe Chamber of Commerce Board member Sandra Berger-Anderson, Palo Verde Valley chapter CWA (California Women for Agriculture) President Debra Stroschein Keenan, former Blythe Vice Mayor Eric Egan and others.

“In support of what our Vice Mayor said (and) discussed about the closure of our animal shelter, I like (Riverside County District 1) Supervisor (Kevin) Jeffries idea about a JPA (Joint Powers Agreement). I think the other counties – La Paz County, which has a large community of Ehrenberg, just one mile from the city of Blythe. But yet, almost an hour from their shelter – (they) might be interested. We might look into the interest for that. Also, Imperial County might be interested in a JPA since they have the community of Palo Verde which is approximately 20 minutes (south) from the city of Blythe. But they’re an hour and 45 minutes from their closest shelter,” stated Rodriguez to the county Board of Supervisors on June 14. “And I know from law enforcement, my previous career, we helped them a lot in answering calls there, 24-hours a day. Our local police department has a key to our local (animal) shelter; so – even after hours, if other agencies need to utilize it – they’re available to open it 24-hours, seven days a week. So, I appreciate your cooperation; I think everybody’s on the same page in giving us a year maybe to work something out. And we can get something done; thank for your time.”

Following public comment on June 14, Perez added: “Thank you, community members from Blythe for driving out here and for sticking around this late, all day. (For) spending your day with us; (we) appreciate you and I definitely do support the idea of figuring out how we could form a stronger partnership, if you will, (in) trying to figure out what we will do with that shelter moving forward (...) I appreciate the points made by you and by others that came on your behalf. So, thank you for that.”

Blythe Councilmembers Samuel Burton and DeConinck volunteered and were accordingly appointed to the Blythe Animal Shelter’s Ad Hoc Committee by Reynolds; Reynolds will also serve as the alternate.

“The county is organizing a meeting with the City of Blythe next month (August) to discuss the animal shelter and ideas that came up during the Board of Supervisors budget discussions,” confirmed Perez’s office to the Times.

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