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Architect, board discuss cost of new shelter

Almost 2,000 animals, including puppies and kittens, were euthanized during 2013 due to lack of space at the Washington County-Johnson City Animal Control Center, Director Debbie Dobbs said during the Jan. 15 meeting of the Animal Control Board.
“It’s the hardest decision we make,” she said, referring to the process she and her assistant director face every morning of selecting the animals.
While the 6,600 animals coming to the shelter last year was the lowest number in recent years, ACB members continue to struggle to determine the correct size for the new facility.
“How do we find the sweet spot where you haven’t gone to either extreme, but you have the space you need most of the time?” City Manager Pete Peterson asked. “We don’t want to overbuild.”
Architect Tom Weems was asked to give a status on the site and design options during the meeting.
While the results of the field exploration indicate the site is adaptable for the proposed construction, risks associated with the development of the site were mainly related to the man-placed rock fill and unknown subsurface conditions below the rock fill.
According to Weems, the geotechnical exploration report recommends raising the site 2 feet for the pad of the building and the parking lot in order to insert utilities above the rock.
“We’ve gone around the block trying to get something everyone can agree with, and the driver seemed to be what it’s going to cost to operate on an annual basis,” he said. “Once you choose a design, I can give you a better cost.”
Weems said people he hears from in the business are surprised all of the kennels are the same size. “I think the capacity could be increased without a cost increase,” he said.
The current plan includes 120 kennels and approximately 40 cat spaces. Weems said having different sizes of kennels would increase the density and provide additional space for cats.
Peterson said he is very interested in the annual operating cost because the facility should have a lifespan of at least 50 years.
“It would definitely influence my decision (on the choice of design),” he said.
City and County Commissioner David Tomita said the ACB has done a disservice if the cost for the new facility can’t be justified with lower operating costs.
Weems asked for some direction from board members. “We’ve got to start getting on the same page,” he said. “I think you can see this is about all we can do with the money you’ve got to spend.”
And that building won’t be fancy, he added. “The main point is this will be a functional building to serve the purpose, without any bells and whistles.”
Commissioner David Tomita made a motion to move ahead with the more expensive $2.3 million design, which includes modest aesthetic differences.
Both designs are for a total area of 15,650 square feet, which include a 9,000-square-foot kennel area. The motion was seconded by Humane Society President Lucinda Grandy and passed with unanimous approval.
Peterson said the City of Johnson City cannot issue debt, which means the ACB will have to borrow the $1.5 million the city has committed toward the project. In turn, the city will make the payments on the debt service.
“We need to think about taking bids, and I would suggest we get our finance folks in place and maybe make a decision during February,” he suggested.
A motion in support of the action received unanimous approval.