Council keeps options open for new animal shelterOne shelter or two: The reality one is preferred prompted Superior’s City Council to keep its options open when it comes to the size and cost for a new animal shelter in Superior.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
One shelter or two: The reality one is preferred prompted Superior’s City Council to keep its options open when it comes to the size and cost for a new animal shelter in Superior.
The council held in committee a decision about the new shelter to see if there is a way the city can build a larger shelter that would serve animals from rural communities now cared for by the Humane Society of Douglas County.
Mayor Bruce Hagen withdrew a recommendation made almost two months ago to build a smaller shelter to serve the city’s animal control needs alone.
“I think everyone in this room, in this building, and on this council, administration and the public prefer one shelter,” Hagen said. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense not to — getting there is what we want to discuss tonight.”
A facility that would serve the 900 animals annually under the care of Animal Allies is expected to require a 6,300-square-foot building. The estimated construction cost is about $2.3 million. The city has already bonded for the project.
To accommodate the additional 300 animals served by the Humane Society of Douglas County, the facility would have to increase to 9,600 square feet at an additional cost of $828,358.
In addition, the estimated cost for operating the larger facility would also create a funding gap of about $59,000 annually.
City officials say it shouldn’t be up to city taxpayers to foot the entire bill for a shelter that would serve communities throughout Douglas County.
So the mayor advised the council to focus on the funding gap.
“How do we bridge the gap to make the right decision, a good decision and one that we won’t regret moving down the road,” Hagen said. “We do believe that we have sufficient information to relay to the council what it would cost and what the size of the facility may be required to have a shelter that serves all our furry friends.”
Superior Finance Director Jean Vito presented the council with an overview of the project finances — whether the city builds a 6,300-square-foot shelter or a 9,600-square-foot shelter. She said the city’s assistance finance director, Dan Zuchowski, spent a good deal of time working with Superior Water, Light and Power to get a good handle on the utility costs for either facility rather than basing the information on estimates of a facility operated in Duluth.
Douglas County is considering a $20,000 annual contribution to the larger shelter; however, that falls short of filling a gap in construction and operating costs that would still run anywhere from $116,516 in 2014 to $133,775 in 2024, when the construction debt is paid off.
Supervisor Dan Corbin said the thing he is struggling with is the cost of construction per square foot for the proposed shelter when other projects approved or under consideration in the county cost significantly less.
“What’s in that building that makes it so darn expensive?” Corbin asked. “If we can figure that out, I think the numbers will fall in place.”
Public Works Director Jeff Goetzman said part of the cost is a result of building a structure with more sturdy finishes because of the nature of the building.
“Part of the reason the building costs as much as it is, some of the finishes are not what you would normally see inside an office or town hall type of building, Goetzman said. “It’s made to stand the test of time. When you have your customers urinating on your floor every day, it’s a little bit harsher environment.”
Corbin said the county’s administration committee discusses the issue of county funding for the shelter March 7, and hopefully, moves it on to a vote before the full board March 21.
Corbin also questioned whether the city needed to tap taxpayers at all for the operation of the new shelter when others support their operation with fundraising and fees.
The Humane Society of Douglas County relies wholly on license and adoption fees and its fundraising efforts and volunteers.
Jean Kioski, secretary of the Humane Society of Douglas County, said their organization does have money in reserve that it is willing to put into the project to help close the gap.
The humane society was also the recent and sole beneficiary of the $110,000 estate of William Bunker, and said that money, coupled with reserves gives the organization about $150,000 it could contribute to the project.
“We want so much to be a part of that,” Kioski said of the new shelter. After all, the humane society’s shelter is facing some of the same problems that prompted the city to begin exploring a new shelter four years ago.
“We believe the support is out there; we just have to keep getting the information out,” Kioski said. “ … We need a facility that’s going to serve the animals properly.”