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City leaders looking for county commitment on new animal shelter

Johnson City Public Works Director Phil Pindzola asked for a commitment from Washington County toward funding the cost of a new animal shelter during the April 28 meeting of the City-County Liaison Committee.
Shelter Director Debbie Dobbs made a case for the need at last week’s meeting.
According to Dobbs, the euthanasia rate of 51 percent is due to a combination of poor spay/neutering practices, a large number of animals from owners who can no longer afford to keep them, and a site that was outgrown long ago.
“We need you to be our avenue to the other commissioners,” Dobbs said to committee members.
Pindzola, who is serving as project manager, said the city is ready to begin negotiations but needs the county to be on board.
“The city has pretty definite plans on how we’re going to fund our portion, and we want to know where the county is,” he said. “We’re trying not to debt service everything we do.”
A potential new site for the shelter has been located on L.P. Auer Road, which contains a building three times the size of the current Sells Avenue shelter location. The 2.6-acre property owned by John Squibb Jr. has been appraised at $700,000.
“You know the situation of the county,” said Pete Speropulos, county commissioner. “It’s kind of like the archive. Everybody agrees we need it, but we have to resolve how we will fund it.”
Johnson City is looking at ways to reinvest the value back into the area referred to as Innovation Park, according to Pindzola.
Discussions are in progress for a relocation of the Boys and Girls Club and the baseball fields adjacent to the current shelter.
“The way you succeed is to expand on successes, and we have had success with building on land around the hospital,” Pindzola said, adding the Sells Avenue site of the shelter is an extension of the healthcare area. “We would probably see a combination of healthcare and private retail businesses move in.”
While Washington County owns the current shelter building, the property it sits on is owned by Johnson City. Both contribute $158,000 annually for shelter operations.
Pindzola said the city is flexible regarding ownership of the potential new property and shelter.
As far as a timeline, Pindzola said design experts would be brought in after the property is purchased, and their planning would take a few months. “
To be in something by the end of the year is the best that we could hope for,” he said.
Capital for renovations will need to be raised, but Pindzola said he thinks the support is there.
“I believe the funds will come, but we want it done right so we can minimize euthanasia and increase adoptions,” he said.
Pindzola would like to visit the L.P. Auer Road site early this week, and said he wanted to get the go-ahead from the committee before contacting Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge.
“I think it would send a strong signal if a representative from the county was with me on the visit,” Pindzola said.