Shelter funding on holdFrom the very beginning, Animal Allies Director Rick Sailstad cautioned the city of Superior against overbuilding its new animal shelter. Overbuilding has consequences — increased operating costs, said the director oversees animal shelters in Duluth and Superior.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
From the very beginning, Animal Allies Director Rick Sailstad cautioned the city of Superior against overbuilding its new animal shelter.
Overbuilding has consequences — increased operating costs, said the director oversees animal shelters in Duluth and Superior.
However, Tuesday night he cautioned councilors against under-sizing the facility that’s expected to take in stray animals and abandoned pets from all of Douglas County as the council contemplated reducing $700,000 from the 2013 Capital Improvement Program designated for the planned shelter. The reduced costs would come from building a smaller facility — possibly on the site of the existing animal shelter on Hill Avenue after a number of complicating factors arose on a site donated by Douglas County for the shelter.
Underbuilding would harm the animals, Sailstad said.
It’s an issue that prompted the city to plan to replace its 1970s-era animal pound, designed to hold animals temporarily with minimal required care. The existing facility was not built with animal care and adoption in mind. Its function changed in 2001, when the Animal Rescue Federation took over the city’s pound to develop an adoption center in the facility.
The arrangement reduced city costs for animal protection and ARF’s goal of reducing euthanasia of healthy animals that could be adopted.
During the city’s planning process, ARF and the Humane Society of Douglas County agreed it would merge its efforts to protect animals countywide with the Duluth-based Animal Allies, which operates the shelter today.
However, several complicating factors could drive up the cost of the original plan.
With Kestrel Aircraft Co. plans to build an airplane manufacturing plant adjacent to the Bong Municipal Airport, the city is planning to close North 46th Street to provide access to the airport. That reduces the visibility of the proposed site south of the AMSOIL Speedway along Hammond Avenue.
Without spending an additional $300,000 for a new road, the closest access point to the facility from Tower Avenue would be North 52nd Street. Add to that soil conditions that could cost the city another $150,000 to correct just so the estimated $3.4 million animal shelter could be built.
Other issues include a yet-to-be unveiled capital campaign to raise about $400,000 for the project.
Councilor Mick MacKenzie said he believes the capital campaign would meet its goals after talking to a few potential large donors.
Still, increasing the animal shelter portion of the Capital Improvement Program could leave other projects in the city underfunded.
The council’s consideration of reducing the budget left many rural representatives wondering if the plan would leave animals from rural Douglas County out in the cold.
Marcy Barbi of the Humane Society, which serves the rural area, asked the council to table the issue until it could get a commitment from the county to ensure rural pets would benefit from the shelter. After all, the nonprofit organization, which has a budget of about $100,000 plus whatever fundraising brings in, is planning to close its shelter, which is struggling to remain open, she said.
If the city downsizes the shelter, there will be no place for the towns and villages to take animals, said town of Superior Supervisor Roger Letourneau.
“The towns are willing to contribute,” Letourneau said.
That was confirmed by Tom Johnson of the Douglas County Towns Association. He said the towns in Douglas County are on board with supporting the facility that was originally designed to serve the whole county.
The information was new to city officials. Hagen and Finance Director Jean Vito said Tuesday night was the first they heard about support from rural towns.
Dan O’Neill, a member of the Animal Allies board, and former ARF member, said the decision to reduce the size of the shelter came as a surprise to him.
“Don’t make a decision now,” O’Neill said after hearing from town officials as he asked Mayor Bruce Hagen not to relent on “what is good enough for Superior,” an argument made for a tax increase by the mayor during a lengthy discussion on the city’s 2013 budget Tuesday night.
Douglas County Board Chairman Doug Finn agreed the city should hold off on a decision to see if the county is willing and able to provide funding for the shelter — so city taxpayers alone don’t bear the cost for a shelter that serves the entire county.
Councilor Dan Olson considered a motion to approve reduced funding with plans to increase the budget if agreements could be reached with Douglas County and its towns. He agreed with the council to table the issue to allow time for the capital campaign to go public and the city to reach agreements with the other communities served by the shelter.