By JOHN T. WARD
Howls of protest are expected Wednesday night when the Red Bank council considers a proposal to scrap its in-house animal control service.
In addition to eliminating the position of animal control officer, held for the past 18 years by Henry Perez, the council would shift the work for the second half of 2021 to the Monmouth County SPCA, a change opponents say would delay responses.
Mayor Pasquale Menna signaled the likely change earlier this month, when he said that maintaining the operation “is not a financially positive matter for the residents of the borough of Red Bank.
“The shared service is subsidized by Red Bank at this point in terms of the total cost of it,” he said.
The borough has shared services agreements under which Perez responds to calls in Fair Haven and Shrewsbury Township.
Police Chief Darren McConnell, serving as interim business administrator, told redbankgreen earlier this month that the borough is “always looking for opportunities to cut costs when service levels can be maintained,” and the review of the animal service “is no different.”
One resolution calls for abolishing Perez’ position ” for reasons of efficiency, economy and effectiveness.” The other, authorizing the agreement with the SPCA for the second half of 2021, says the borough would pay $4,800 per month, or a total $28,800.
According the the Asbury Park Press Data Universe of public employment salaries, Red Bank paid Perez just under $62,000 last year.
Word at borough hall is that Perez would maintain his salary and be transferred to a position in the streets or water operations if an SPCA contract is signed. Perez declined comment.
The resolution says the agency “has received excellent referrals and praise from the other local communities to which it has been providing animal control services.”
But Red Bank residents familiar with Perez, who’s had the job for about 18 years, said the SPCA cannot match his level of service, as measured in response times and level of commitment.
“The important things is Red Bank is a dog town,” said Alexis Gasiorowski, of Linden Place. “What they want to cut out of our budget is our animal control? What you supposed to do if you lose your dog?”
Gasiorowski, an attorney, said the SPCA has seven animal control officers serving about 20 towns, whereas Perez is intimately familiar with the towns where he tracks down abandoned cats and loose dogs, monitors a riverside den of foxes and more.
A year ago, redbankgreen watched as Perez helped a FedEx driver search for a sparrow that had flown under the dashboard of a delivery truck.
“This guy spent two days trying to find my bird on a weekend,” said Gasiorowski, referring to Perez. “Our community, with its amount of pets, demands its own animal control.”
Opposition to the change has also been building on social media.
In March, the Fair Haven council approved a resolution to continue the shared arrangement through 2021, for $7,780.
Borough Administrator Theresa Casagrande told redbankgreen last Tuesday that she had not received any notice of Red Bank’s intention to terminate the agreement.
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