A Viable Future For PAWS?

The future of PAWS in Montclair is an on-going issue that has yet to be resolved. PAWS animal shelter used to receive $54,000 a year from Montclair Township, under contract to provide animal control services. In the spring of 2006, the two parties were unable to come to an agreement over compensation. Their service contract was awarded to Clifton, financial support from the town ended, and the business relationship took a drastic turn.
The Montclair Times reported that the organization is now dipping into their savings to pay $6,270 in monthly rent to the town. PAWS manager Sarah Githens says their annual rent has jumped from $16,575 to $75,240.
What happened since last Spring, when negotiations were apparently moving in a positive direction? Although the Board of Directors told Baristanet they were not willing to speak publicly about the current relationship, it’s clear from tips and comments we’ve received that the PAWS community is feeling stressed. Hanging in the financial balance is their sustainability – paying the current rent could potentially force the cash-strapped PAWS to shut down within 18 months, say its supporters.
We went to Town manager, Joe Hartnett, for some answers.


Mr. Hartnett prefaced his response: “this started because PAWS had a signed contract with the township and the township was indeed paying money to them, but they reneged on their contract and abdicated their agreement.” Hartnett writes:

Through negotiations, the Township attempted to establish an alternate arrangement with PAWS that would allow them to stay in the building and be involved as a partner with the Township in running the animal shelter. In our opinion, this would have been an ideal solution and it is one that is working very well elsewhere both in helping the volunteer organizations and the municipality. But PAWS has absolutely and unconditionally refused to enter into any such partnership arrangement and has maintained that it must have 100% control of the building as its privately-run shelter.
At this point, we are left with a straight business arrangement. The question then becomes – can the Township give away a Township asset at a rate less than market rate to PAWS because it is a “good group that does good things?” The problem with this logic is, why should we give this property to PAWS at a reduced rate as opposed to the Red Cross or the Heart Association or the Mental Health Association or a shelter for homeless people, etc. etc. Why does PAWS deserve a break and not some other worthy or more worthy or more needy group?
The answer, of course, is that the Township does not have the right to give away Township monies or assets to charitable or civic groups or to favor one group over another and the law does not permit this. There are laws that provide that when Township assets are given over to private organizations it must be done at prevailing market conditions. To arrive at what the market rent should be, the Township hired a certified appraiser who has given his independent judgment as to what the fair market rent should be. We are certainly more than willing to work with PAWS to get additional appraisals from someone they approve of, at our expense, if anyone feels this appraisal was not fair.
Finally, I would like to add that I and other Township officials are very concerned with animal welfare and that animal control services be performed in a humane manner. We remain committed to that objective, as proven by our hiring of a professional animal control officer…and we remain committed to finding the best possible solution in the overall public interest.

Addendum to Mr. Hartnett’s response:

There is so much misinformation being circulated and lack of understanding about the PAWS situation that it is difficult to know where to start to explain things. I will do my best.
Let’s start with the concept of how and why Township monies and assets might he given to an outside organization. Basically there are two conditions for this; 1, where a specific State law allows for it; or, 2, where an organization is performing a service for a municipality. An example of #1 would be a First Aid Squad, because State law specifically provides for municipalities to be able to support first aid squads. The best example of #2 would be PAWS itself, which had a contract with the Township to provide improvements and services and as part of that contract paid reduced rent of $1 a year.
As you know, the current situation was caused not by the Township but by PAWS resigning from the aforesaid contract. They quit performing services that they were supposed to be performing for the Township and defaulted on their lease agreement.
As Township Manager, I have a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers of Montclair to safeguard their monies, their assets, and their property, and one of the major reasons I was brought here was to make sure that this Township is managed properly. Accordingly, we will be continuing to review all of the Township’s business arrangements to try to bring them into line and make sure they are done in a proper, legal, and businesslike manner.

So, what is the best solution? We invite the Board members of PAWS to respond.

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33 COMMENTS

  1. This guy continues to amaze me. Every single communication with him is a master class in passive-aggressive management. He also sounds like he’s about to say “and they smell bad! I hate them!” at the end of every email.

  2. “The question then becomes √¢‚Ǩ‚Äú can the Township give away a Township asset at a rate less than market rate to PAWS because it is a √¢‚Ǩ≈ìgood group that does good things?√¢‚Ǩ¬ù The problem with this logic is, why should we give this property to PAWS at a reduced rate as opposed to the Red Cross or the Heart Association or the Mental Health Association or a shelter for homeless people, etc. etc. Why does PAWS deserve a break and not some other worthy or more worthy or more needy group?”
    The answer is they don’t. ALL non-profit organizations, PAWS included, should get some sort of rent relief. Why aren’t they?

  3. This is bs accounting gimmicks: we have to charge the prevailing rate. Unlike the other charities mentioned, PAWS is providing a required service to the town, the caring of homeless animals. If the town drives PAWS out of business then the town will have to spend money to either run the shelter itself or pay some politically connected fat cat to do so. So what is now revenue positive becomes revenue negative and further increases taxes. But the pols get to pass out jobs and contracts to their friends and relatives.

  4. “this started because PAWS had a signed contract with the township and the township was indeed paying money to them, but they reneged on their contract and abdicated their agreement.”
    Any details on how they reneged on their contract?
    “an alternate arrangement with PAWS that would allow them to stay in the building and be involved as a partner with the Township in running the animal shelter”
    Why would the town be interested in becoming a partner in the animal care and control business? Aren’t they mismanaging enough other programs? What do they gain by doing this, besides control of the building? Oh, is that it, control of the building?
    “The answer, of course, is that the Township does not have the right to give away Township monies or assets to charitable or civic groups or to favor one group over another and the law does not permit this:
    Didn’t the town just give the old firehouse around the corner to the ambulance service? Are we collecting market rent, or any rent on this property? The town gives money to various “charitable” organizations, why not PAWS?
    Something smells here. All along Hartnett and Schlager have been reporting at council meetings that they were working with PAWS and expected an agreement shortly. They are now just stringing PAWS along until their money runs out and they can’t afford to stay in the building.

  5. There is always a way solve problems like this one, but both side must be flexible and be able to fully trust each other. That doesn’t seem to be the case here.
    If PAWS can provide animal control services to Montclair and provide housing and care for local strays (also a valuable service) they why can’t those services be reflected in reduced rent for PAWS?
    I agree with a previous poster about Hartnett’s comments: how did PAWS renege on their contract? What was the town doing, specifically, to try to work with PAWS?
    I can understand the reluctance of PAWS board to speak about this in public, but it is the obligation of the town administrator to be forthcoming with tax payers.
    My suggestion to the residents of Montclair who care deeply for PAWS and the care and treatment of strays do all they can to get to the bottom of this matter and do all they can to make sure the town does whatever it needs to in order to keep PAWS where it is.

  6. I would hate to see what would happen to this area if PAWS closed. The number of animals that they house and place is astounding. On a day-to-day basis, this community relies upon PAWS to take care of abandoned animals.
    I have 3 rescues of my own, and taking care of them, although one of the happiest activities of my life, is not cheap. I cannot begin to imagine the costs PAWS incurs.

  7. I don’t think trust is the issue here. The point is, the town council wants the property. This is the way to force PAWS out. Joe is flat out lying in his statement. Recently, the MVAU was given the old firehouse on Walnut when they could no longer afford the rent at the Valley Road location. The MVAU doesn’t pay rent to the town for this building. How is it different then PAWS.
    The MEDC uses the Walnut Street lot for the Farmer’s Market for which they are paid a fee from the various merchants. None of this money goes back to the town, the MEDC keeps it.
    So the point is, town assets can be given away for free when the council feels like it.
    Come on Barists, how about a follow up with Hartnett?
    That would be interesting reading.

  8. What of we say pretty please? Come on, don’t post such, let’s call them obvious inconsistencies” from Hartnett without challenging him. Otherwise, the site is just a mouthpiece for him.

  9. “The answer, of course, is that the Township does not have the right to give away Township monies or assets to charitable or civic groups or to favor one group over another and the law does not permit this.”
    Really Joe- didn’t monies donated to PAWS build the building that they are located in? Aren’t they caring for MONTCLAIR animals?
    Doesn’t Clifton just pick up animals and drop them off at PAWS- yet Clifton is FUNDED BY MONTCLAIR and doesn’t have to care for the animals and the town is NOT PAYING PAWS to care for the animals?
    What about giving DCH the parking deck on Orange Road to keep their
    inventory in return for $35,000 per year in a PILOT (payment in lieu
    of taxes) arrangement?
    Send your appraiser over there and let’s see if that payment is “fair.”
    The town is trying to kick PAWS out of the building so that they can sell the land for Condos.
    Isn’t that it Joe?

  10. Mr. Hertnett states: “We remain committed to that objective, as proven by our hiring of a professional animal control officer…”
    How much does this officer make, and isn’t he duplicating the services that PAWS used to do in their contract? Eliminate that position (who is probably earning more than $54,000), and use that “savings” to reimburse PAWS for their work.
    Isn’t that the simplest solution?

  11. Only if the town’s objective is to keep PAWS in business and in their building.
    Don’t forget, instead of paying PAWS, we are now paying the animal control officer AND Clifton.

  12. It’s too bad that they can’t hold a big fundraiser and raise enough $$$ so that PAWS can buy the damn building.

  13. “Municipal officials ceased their annual $54,000 funding to PAWS in spring 2006 for the cost of animal-control services and the sheltering of strays. PAWS then stopped providing animal-control services to Montclair on June 1, 2006, but continues to shelter animals without financial support from the township.
    It costs the nonprofit approximately $500,000 to operate the shelter. According to Githens, in 2006, PAWS took in 850 dogs and cats, of 650 were from Montclair. She wrote in an e-mail to The Times that more than 90 percent of those animals were adopted.”
    -Montclair Times 10/24
    So the town stopped paying for services rendered and then PAWS understandably stopped providing anomal cotrol services. It sounds like without PAWS around, the cost of Animal Collection AND SHELTER will go through the roof. Clifton doesnt shelter.

  14. Mr. Hartnett can you please respond to some of the issues raised here?
    Is it true the MVAU was given use of the FireHouse? I second what Jon Doh said. Barista, go back to Mr. Hartnett and do a Follow Up.
    Don’t forget Montclair – it is YOUR money the town uses.

  15. That would actually be a 3rd, not a 2nd (-;
    So, while I doubt Hartnett lurks here, I assume the Baristas do. How about it?

  16. Dog Mom: Let’s host a Labby Dabby Ding Dong Dinner-Dance and do it! It can be done, folks. Nonprofits in the NY metro area hold fundraisers all the time that raise up to $1M–and more! They deserve their own bldg. so they don’t have to get bogged down in this adminsitartive crap and can get on with the real job at hand: the care and adoption of animals.

  17. Dog Mom: Let’s host a Labby Dabby Ding Dong Dinner-Dance and do it! It can be done, folks. Nonprofits in the NY metro area hold fundraisers all the time that raise up to $1M–and more! They deserve their own bldg. so they don’t have to get bogged down in this adminsitrative crap and can get on with the real job at hand: the care and adoption of animals.

  18. The Barista said “We went to Town manager, Joe Hartnett, for some answers.”
    That’s where you went wrong. No real answers will come from Hartnett. Only doublespeak and an agenda as big as all outdoors!
    Joe, It’s our town NOT yours. Didn’t we subsidize your living expenses for quite some time ’cause you said it was too expensive to live here?
    Shouldn’t we, the taxpayers, get to say who gets subsidized.
    So here’s a question. Why subsidize DCH. I wonder what you got out of this subisdy Joe. Was it a new car?
    “Dah Chong Hong (USA), also known as DCH Auto Group, has been doing business in the United States since 1948. The group has 35 factory-authorized dealerships in metropolitan New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Southern California. DCH, the largest auto group in New Jersey, has annual sales revenue exceeding US$1.75 billion and won numerous awards from automobile manufacturers, industry associations and community organizations.
    DCH New Jersey dealerships include: DCH Montclair ACURA; BMW of Freehold; Essex BMW, Bloomfield; DCH Academy HONDA, Old Bridge; DCH Kay HONDA, Eatontown; DCH Paramus HONDA; DCH Millburn Audi; DCH Millburn VOLKSWAGEN; DCH Brunswick TOYOTA; DCH Freehold TOYOTA; DCH Freehold NISSAN; Montclair JAGUAR; Montclair LINCOLN MERCURY; Montclair VOLVO; SATURN of Brunswick; SATURN of Eatontown and SATURN of Freehold.
    DCH New York dealerships include: Pace BMW of Mamaroneck, DCH Wappingers Falls TOYOTA; DCH Wappingers Falls SUBARU and SATURN of Massapequa.
    DCH Connecticut dealerships include: BMW of Greenwich.”
    DCH really looks like they NEED Montclair’s subsidy don’t they!!!!

  19. Since PAWS is providing the town with a NECESSARY service (an animal shelter) for FREE, it is not unreasonable for the town to give them a discount on the rent.

  20. A follow up question to Mr. Hartnett
    What is the town planning on doing with the property you have driven PAWS out? That neighborhood is much more upscale than it was when PAWS moved in.
    And, oh yeah, where will we put the strays? Perhaps they can run loose inside 205 Claremont Avenue.

  21. Barista,
    Any followup with Hartnett? I can’t bear to think of what will happen to animals without PAWS in town.
    I suppose that we can drop any stray or abandoned animals at Mr. Hartnett’s house and he can figure it out.
    Better get ready Joe, you’re going to need a lot of cat carriers. Do you like pitbulls?

  22. Actually, when it comes to empty buildings, moving, etc. those in the “know” are already talking about a new police station, and town hall.
    “They” have long been dissatisfied with the existing police station. Apparently it constantly needs repair, and does not offer the space that is desired.
    I wonder if the brand, spanking new, every option under the sun firehouse has anything to do with it, i.e.. why should the fire department get all the new construction?
    It wouldn’t surprise me to see a good portion of the new development area, located in front of the new school, between Mission and New, becoming the new police HQ, Town Hall combo!
    Look for another $15MM plus project!

  23. Actually, when it comes to empty buildings, moving, etc. those in the “know” are already talking about a new police station, and town hall.
    “They” have long been dissatisfied with the existing police station. Apparently it constantly needs repair, and does not offer the space that is desired.
    I wonder if the brand, spanking new, every option under the sun firehouse has anything to do with it, i.e.. why should the fire department get all the new construction?
    It wouldn’t surprise me to see a good portion of the new development area, located in front of the new school, between Mission and New, becoming the new police HQ, Town Hall combo!
    Look for another $15MM plus project!

  24. Addendum:
    When did PAWS resign from the contract? Was it before or after the township had stopped payments for services?
    PAWS is still providing a service, an unpaid service, to the township. They are housing animals brought to them from the animal control officer and via the Clifton service.
    No one from PAWS is going to respond. It can only hurt their chances of ever getting any money from the town council.

  25. I don’t think that PAWS *EVER* resigned from the contract.
    They did ask to be paid a fair price for their services – and then someone – either the Town manager or Mayor – figured out that they could get PAWS to perform the services for FREE and at the same time force tham out of the building.
    Thus “Saving” Montclair mega-bucks and giving them the building to *SELL* or give to someone who has done them personal favors.
    Hey Joe- what did DCH do for you to deserve the parking complex for a very very reduced rate?
    Please describe why the parking deck was built for DCH and didn’t cost DCH anything and why Montclair got *NOTHING* out of the deal.
    I find it very suspicious that the Montclair Town Manager would make a deal and get nothing- at least nothing that WE can see.

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