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The Kelso City Council on Tuesday approved a 20 percent increase in its contract with the Humane Society of Cowlitz County for animal control services.

After year-long discussions, the updated contract meets both the city’s need for animal control services and provides support for the humane society to continue operations, City Manager Steve Taylor told the council.

The city has contracted with the humane society for animal control services since 2008. Last year, the humane society asked for more money from its contracts with Longview, Kelso, Castle Rock, Woodland and Cowlitz County, saying it had been “hemorrhaging” about $100,000 a year over the last five years on animal control services.

Under the new contract, Kelso will pay $118,000 in 2019. The rate would increase by 5 percent annually in 2020 and 2021. The city would also pay $15 per day for animals that are impounded and sheltered as part of a court order.

The council also approved a contract with Walstead Mertsching, P.S., for indigent defense services to replace current contractor Debra Burchett who was elected to the Cowlitz District Court in November. Burchett will close her law firm at the end of the year, according to the city.

The new contract will last through Dec. 31, 2021, with two one-year extensions. The city will pay the firm about $12,000 a month, with about 7.5 percent covered by a grant from the state’s Office of Public Defense.

In other business, the council:

  • Approved a 2.5 percent base salary increase in 2019 for non-union employees.
  • Closed out a $494,000 contract with Five Rivers Construction, Inc., for roof and mechanical repairs at the public works shop. Change orders increased the final amount by $39,000.
  • Appointed incoming Cowlitz District Court John Hays, Debra Burchett and M. Jamie Imboden as Kelso Municipal Court justices.
  • Terminated the Cowlitz County Communications Center agreement and approved the new agreement for the Cowlitz 911 public authority. The city will pay $193,366 annually in 2019 and 2020 for the services.
  • Approved adjustments to the 2018 budget.
  • Appointed Daniel Graves to the Park Board.

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