12/21/05 — Shelter plan gets first OK from county

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Shelter plan gets first OK from county

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on December 21, 2005 1:50 PM

Wayne County's Board of Commissioners approved a site Tuesday that could soon be the home of a new county animal shelter, while local residents who called for the change cheered.

The decision followed a presentation by the county's Animal Control Advisory Committee concerning the procedures for constructing a new building and recommendations on how to pay for the construction.

The estimates for the construction hover around $1.2 million, although committee members and others say there might be room for some curtailing of the costs.

Committee chairman Dr. Stan Griffith said the current building is nearly 50 years old. Aside from that, the structure is located in a floodplain, lacks safe animal containment facilities and cannot provide proper sanitation for workers or the large amount of animals taken to the shelter each week, Griffith said.

"To adequately serve the citizens of Wayne County, a new animal shelter is no longer a desire but a necessity," he told the commission. "It would be a blemish on this department to be unable to meet the needs of Wayne County citizens."

Griffith said discussions concerning a new shelter began four years ago. In June 2003, the National Humane Society conducted an evaluation of the structure with the results presented to the commission in October of that year.

Although the Humane Society commended the county for taking the initiative to construct a new facility without being forced into action by a lawsuit or public outrage, the society did recommend changes to the current facility.

"They recommended the adequate ventilation in the dog kennels, appropriate caging for stray or feral cats or to discontinue routine trapping. (The report also said the shelter needed) a proper and accurate identification system and improved disinfectants and sanitation procedures," Griffith said.

Animal shelter officials did make the recommended changes, but the need for a new building continued. With only 1,150 square feet in the current building, Chief Animal Control Officer Jerry Pate said he and his colleagues are unable to separate animals properly by age, sex and health or to quarantine when necessary.

Recently, there were 50 dogs in 11 cages, Griffith said. The committee had wanted to abandon the building this year, but is still hoping for the possibility for next year, he said.

The commissioners' decision Tuesday could help that dream a reality. Along with approving the site, the commissioners also agreed to solicit architects' proposals. Once the commissioners have a better understanding of the potential costs, Wayne County Manager Lee Smith said the county could begin looking at revenue sources for the project.

Commissioner Jack Best suggested that the community become involved in fundraising efforts. If each of the 10,000 petition signers wanting a new animal shelter contributed $20, he said it would assist the county in paying for the structure. Committee members were not against fundraising efforts to help pay for the shelter.

"There are people that would be happy to donate, but I don't know how much," Griffith said. "It depends on the county on how much they believe it will help to donate."

The site approved for the building is located on Eighth Street. Griffith said it is a great location for a shelter because the area offers better public access and a more central location. Since it would be located on county-owned property, commissioners would also be able to save money on land acquisition, he said.

In the 10,000-square-foot structure, there would be 54 dog runs, Pate said. In case of an emergency, such as a flood, he said that number could be increased to 108. There would also be about 50 cat cages in the shelter.

If the building were constructed according to the suggestions made by the committee, Griffith said the shelter could hold animals comfortably for many years to come.

"This would be a one-time expenditure. We hope the facility would serve the community for the next 40 or 50 years. We all know government buildings are not built for the short-term," he said.

Preparing the site for construction would cost the county $41,315, according to the committee's findings. The entire floor plan could cost as much as $1.2 million.

However, after hearing architectural proposals, Smith said the county could pick and choose among the amenities to possibly save money.

Once the decision was made, many people involved in Concerned Citizens of Wayne County, an organization working toward a new shelter, could not help but applaud. Barrett Parker, a member of the organization, used the opportunity during public comments to address the commissioners on their decision.

"My original intent was to plead for you to take action," Ms. Parker said. "Thank you for taking the first step."