Davis County commissioners were soundly thumped by the county's mayors, angered at the way the county is trying to get the cities to pick up a share of animal-control costs.

The mayors told commissioners at a Davis Council of Governments meeting they have no intention of picking up the extra cost and are not happy about the way the county has tried to coerce them into it.Animal control has been a county function for 25 years, they said, and should remain that way, with the budget coming from the county's general fund.

Commission Chairman William Peters said that when the county's 1989 budget was drafted last fall, the animal-control budget was cut from $348,000 to $340,000.

But actual county money committed to the department was cut 34 percent, Peters said. To make up the remainder, about $125,000 in contributions from the cities in Davis County was factored in.

The county, through Animal Control Director DeAnne Hess, is now asking the cities for their share on a prorated basis, based on the number of animal-control calls serviced in each community.

If the 34 percent cut is made, Hess has told the cities, it would require elimination of seven of the department's 11 employees, including the entire field staff. The department's function would be limited to running the animal shelter, Hess said, cutting out entirely its animal-control service.

The mayors responded that putting in a contribution of more than $100,000 without first conferring with the cities is a poor budgeting practice at best and unethical at the worst.

"We knew we were going to catch some flak for it. We just didn't know how much," Peters told the mayors.

Hess and Commissioner William "Dub" Lawrence, who oversees animal control, have been approaching each council with their proposal. The assessments, which range from about $3,000 in South Weber to more than $80,000 in Layton, would be offset by crediting the cities for fees generated for license sales and other animal-shelter revenue.

But the mayors and councils fear the move by the county to divest itself of animal-control costs may be only a first step. The county, they charged, could be trying to solve its tight budget problem by pushing more programs and costs onto the cities.

"Our concerns go beyond animal control," said Layton Mayor Richard McKenzie. "We feel there are other non-state mandated programs that the county could also cut, other programs that could be pushed off onto the cities."

The county has invested millions of dollars over the past 25 years in an animal shelter, equipment and training of personnel, the mayor said, and should not abandon it now.

McKenzie said the county has an "obligation by precedent" to continue the service and continue paying for it out of its general fund.

Clearfield Mayor Neldon Hamblin, looking at a $40,000 assessment, said he presented the proposal to his City Council and it agrees with McKenzie.

"We share those concerns," Hamblin said. "It's a problem of turf and rice bowls. We're missing the factor here of serving the same constituency. There are some services best done at the local level and some best done at the county level, and we've found this is one of the ones best done at the county level to avoid duplication of services."

"Animal control is a problem we all have," said South Weber Mayor Rex Bouchard. "We need more of it, not less. It's a matter of who's going to raise taxes, you or us."

Unable to reach an agreement at the meeting, the mayors and commissioners agreed to revive the Council of Government's moribund intergovernmental affairs committee and refer the program there for further study and recommendations.