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Council suspends animal shelter design contract

Action by the Superior City Council on Tuesday suspends the design contract for a new animal shelter near Moccasin Mike Road on U.S. Highways 2/53 (Jed Carlson/

The proposed animal shelter is going back to the drawing board. The Superior City Council voted Tuesday to suspend the design contract for the planned shelter to explore its options. “We all love the idea of the animal shelter,” said Council Vice President Denise McDonald. “My only concern is the amount of money. With that said, I would like to put a motion out there that we suspend design of the animal shelter until we know what size building and how much money we will be having to work with.” McDonald and Council President Warren Bender proposed suspending a contract with Animal Arts Inc. for $126,710 to redesign the shelter for an 8,600-square-foot building. The Council approved the contract Oct. 1. The design would accommodate a shelter large enough to serve the city and county’s needs after the Douglas County Board committed to funding its operation with $410,000 over the next 10 years if the shelter is large enough to serve the county. McDonald and Councilor Jack Sweeney voted against awarding the contract in October. Sweeney said Tuesday that he still didn’t have enough that information about the project, how many animals or the cost of operation, to proceed. McDonald said the city already has spent about $70,000 to design a 6,300-square-foot shelter to serve the city’s needs, but there isn’t enough certainty about the project to spend taxpayers money on another design when the size of the building and other issues haven’t been decided. Councilor Mick MacKenzie, who has worked since taking office in 2008 to replace the former city pound now used as an animal adoption, said the Council needs to keep moving forward to ensure the shelter is constructed. After all, Animal Allies has been working behind the scenes toward securing major contributors to fill the funding gap to build a new shelter before launching a public capital campaign, said Rick Sailstad, director of Animal Allies, which operates the city-owned shelter. Even as councilors debated the suspension of design for the new shelter, the current facility was having work done to replace a furnace that left the shelter without heat for three days. It was one of two furnaces, Sailstad said. Dan O’Neill, a member of the Animal Allies board, said staff and volunteers were forced to use space heaters for three days. “The community deserves this,” MacKenzie said. Councilor Esther Dalbec agreed: “Let’s get it done.” Councilors Mick MacKenzie, Esther Dalbec and Tom Fennessey voted against suspending the contract. McDonald, Sweeney, and Councilors Warren Bender, Terry Massoglia, Bob Finsland and Mike Herrick voted to suspend it. About $11,000 worth of work was either approved or already completed, and the city is likely liable to pay for it, said Finance Director Jean Vito. The city is also responsible for the costs of replacing the furnace in the old facility, which is expected to run about $3,800. Mayor Bruce Hagen cautioned the council not to leave the project in a vacuum; however, councilors took no official action to keep the project moving forward after City Attorney Frog Prell advised the Council city administration would attempt to re-engage the conversation with Animal Arts for consideration of less costly construction options. The shelter is estimated to cost $3.1 million, and would require a capital campaign to fill the gap between available city funding for the project, about $2.2 million, and the actual cost, which won’t be known until a design is approved and put out to bid. Efforts to raise that money are underway according to Sailstad. He said Animal Allies has been talking to potential major contributors to the project before launching a public campaign, planned to launce next month. Sailstad said he wasn’t sure how major contributors to the project would look upon Tuesday night’s decision. He said they may appreciate the city’s frugality, or it may leave them wondering if the shelter will ever be built. Bender said his goal is to jump start a project that has not been moving forward at a reasonable cost — using less expensive construction methods — so there is a lesser or no gap in funding to fill. The city began contemplating replacing its current facility in 2008.