In this week's Around Town column, the city's new animal services operator helps out pets impacted by the Camp Fire and the Rinconada Masters swim team appeals to the City Council to stay at Rinconada Pool.
WATER FIGHT ... The feud between Rinconada Masters, a swimming club that has been in Palo Alto since 1972, and Team Sheeper, the new operator of Rinconada Pool, took on an increasingly personal tone this week, when swimmers made an impassioned, last-ditch plea to the council to allow the club to remain in the pool. The swimmers were referring to the new five-year deal with Team Sheeper for pool operations that the council is scheduled to approve on Dec. 10. While the contract would keep most existing swim programs in place, Team Sheeper has declined to renew the Rinconada Masters program, opting instead to run their own masters program. According to city staff, Team Sheeper based its decision on safety concerns — namely, the failure of Rinconada Masters to always have an adequate number of lifeguards on duty. Carol Macpherson, who founded Rinconada Masters 47 years ago, choked back tears in describing Team Sheeper's decision not to renew the contract. "I think this is age discrimination and the city is allowing this to happen," Macpherson told the council Monday. "This will take away my livelihood and this is very unfair." Several swimmers said Rinconada Masters has made proposals to address Team Sheeper's concerns, but these offers were always rejected. David Levinson, who has been swimming with the team since the late 1970s, urged the council to keep the club afloat. "Whether you allow us to continue as a venerable Palo Alto institution or whether you consign us to oblivion — that decision is in your hands," Levinson told the council.
A PET PROJECT... After years of debate on what to do about its cramped and costly animal shelter, Palo Alto now appears to be on the cusp of a resolution. The City Council is scheduled to approve on Monday a contract with the nonprofit Pets In Need to take over operations of the East Bayshore Road facility, which would undergo some renovations as part of the agreement. But before they could begin to take care of Palo Alto's animals, staff from the Redwood City-based organization directed their energies to the northern part of the state, where the Camp Fire has devastated communities and left many animal owners short of supplies since it ignited on Nov. 8. In response, Pets In Need launched a campaign to gather pet supplies for fire victims. Within days, it had enough pet food, blankets, dog beds, water bowls, toys and treats to completely fill a giant rescue van. On Monday, a team of four drove the supplies to Chico, where they dropped them off at Wags and Whiskers, a pet-rescue organization. "We saw posts on Facebook from different organizations and shelters saying they need different supplies and we thought we can easily help in that way by asking the community," Jacqueline Stewart, development coordinator for Pets In Need, told the Weekly. "They sure did deliver." Upon arriving at the Chico strip mall where the shelter is located, the group was struck by the almost "business as usual" atmosphere, with people dropping off and picking up donations and inquiring about vaccines and rescued animals, said animal care manager Anamarie Johnson, who took part in the trip. One woman came up and asked for a leash, having failed to grab one while escaping the fire. The small shelter was also housing 75 animals that were being fostered at homes devastated by the fire. "They are all being cared for," Johnson said. "A lot of them are in crates, but there were volunteers coming in to make sure that the dogs were getting walked." The animals, she said, are available for adoption. Pets In Need chose the small shelter because unlike some of the better-known ones (such as those run by various chapters of the Humane Society) they receive relatively few donations. Anyone wishing to make a donation can find information at wagsandwhiskerspetrescue.com.
• Read our list of Midpeninsula organizations collecting donations to support those affected by the Camp Fire.