Council considers future shelterFor four years, city officials have worked on a plan to replace its animal shelter.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
For four years, city officials have worked on a plan to replace its animal shelter.
And Tuesday night, the council again discusses the shelter with the hope of construction can begin this year.
However, councilors face some decisions before the project gets underway.
“We would all like to bring this to conclusion for our fury friends,” said Mayor Bruce Hagen.
The city’s current animal shelter was constructed as a dog pound in the early 1970s.
The city still hasn’t settled on a site for the new shelter and just what size the new structure will be remains undecided despite the council approving its Capital Improvement Program budget with plans to construct a 6,300-square-foot facility, one large enough to handle the city’s animal control needs.
The estimated cost for the 6,300-square-foot facility is about $2.3 million.
While some questioned the high estimates for construction costs for the shelter, Finance Director Jean Vito said the city took the extra step to have a local contractor look at the costs for the local area.
“In fact, I think he may have thought the estimates were just slightly low,” Vito said.
The 6,300-square-foot facility would mean the Humane Society of Douglas County —once included in the consolidation of Animal Allies and Animal Rescue Federation — would remain on its own to care for the animals in rural Douglas County.
“Ideally, it would be one shelter,” said Mayor Bruce Hagen. However to construct the 9,600-square-foot facility needed to consolidate the city and county shelters under one roof, the city would need to close an $828,358 funding gap for construction costs alone. Then the city would have to close an additional $59,000 gap annually for operating costs for the larger shelter.
The city processes about 900 animals per year; the Humane Society of Douglas County processes another 300 per year.
When the city bonded for animal shelter construction, it was done so city taxpayers would only pay for services required by the city.
“One of the problems is … there is a whole lot of misunderstanding, misinformation out there as to the reality of ‘why not one shelter?’” Hagen said. Some have even questioned why the city and county can’t get along. However, the mayor said getting along isn’t the issue.
The county has no statutory obligation to provide animal control services; still county officials offered to pay $20,000 annually toward the larger facility.
Without additional funding from the towns and villages of Douglas County, city taxpayers would have to fill a funding gap in debt and operating costs that runs between $116,516 the first year to $133,775 in the 10th year of operation.
Town and village officials have not seen the animal shelter as a priority, Hagen said.
“And to be fair, they don’t have any money either,” Hagen said. “The conundrum is that I, the council, the city, do not feel it is incumbent upon the city to have city taxpayers pay for the gap.”
While there are things that can be done, such as designing for expansion, or launching a capital campaign that would cover at least the gap in the construction costs, Hagen said he can’t make a recommendation would put the burden of countywide animal control on city taxpayers.
In addition to considering the size of the shelter, the council is considering siting the new shelter. While several locations have been considered and dismissed because of site problems, Hagen said a site adjacent to Moccasin Mike Road at Bear Creek Park is being considered.
While city administration had hoped to have soil borings complete this week, weather has hampered those efforts.
Public Works Director Jeff Goetzman said he’s hopeful those borings can be taken this week.
“We could accommodate a dog park there too,” Hagen said.
The council meets to consider issues surrounding the new animal shelter at 6:30 p.m. today in Room 201 Government Center.