‘Back to the drawing board’ on animal shelter

GCNO file photo

It was less than three months ago that the Jefferson city council and the county supervisors told volunteer Don Orris “Thanks, but no thanks” to his offer to raise funds to build a new animal shelter.

Now, the steering committee that includes council member Dave Sloan and supervisor Dawn Rudolph is again looking at building a new shelter, but they’ll need to find funding themselves.

The supervisors and the city council earlier this year balked at Orris’s plan. The cost of the proposed shelter was $1.2 million, and although Orris said he would raise the funds for construction, his offer was contingent on the city and county committing to covering operating expenses estimated at $161,000 annually.

After several discussions, both groups said the operating costs were too high and the county backed away from the project. The city owns the current shelter, and the council decided to tour the building and determine what repairs or improvements could be made.

Rudolph reported to the supervisors Monday the committee had met last week, after people had toured the shelter. “I’m not sure everyone will want to do what needs to be done. It’s going to cost quite a bit of money, so we’re going back to the drawing board because you’d be better off tearing it down and starting over,” she said.

Jefferson mayor Craig Berry was at the supervisors’ meeting. He said he heard from the committee that they planned to ask Orris if it was possible to pare down his proposal, building the exterior but doing the interior work in phases.

Rudolph said the committee was considering perhaps starting with only half the dog runs and limited landscaping and paving. She suggested a phased project. She said an animal control officer would not be part of the plan. The cost of the officer was problematic as the council and supervisors looked at the proposal in January.

“When we looked at the operating costs and we started taking out a vehicle and all the paid help, the operating costs weren’t that much higher,” Rudolph said.

The plan would be to have People for Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) volunteers run the shelter as they do now.

The proposed site offered by Greene County Development Corporation is still the committee’s preferred location.

Berry characterized a pared-down plan as getting a Ford Fiesta instead of a Cadillac.

Council member Sloan at the council meeting Tuesday reported that Orris has agreed “to come back and help us a little bit.”

He said the committee has a couple of ideas “we’re kicking around” and hopes to have more to talk about in two weeks.

Council member Dan Benitz has suggested the committee inquire about sending animals to the Boone shelter. Sloan said preliminary information was that Boone would need to hire staff and that cost would be passed along to Jefferson. Council member Larry Teeples and Benitz both said the committee should explore all options.

“What I’m hearing from people is they’re concerned with us paying for a shelter for adoption of animals and all that. It would take some pressure off us if we could farm that out, so we’re not bearing the cost of taking care of them [the animals],” Benitz said.

“With all the work that Don has done, he’s probably closer to it than all of us. He’s probably got the best solution in mind,” council member Harry Ahrenholtz said. He was serving as mayor pro tem in the absence of Berry.

Benitz said the option of a Morton building hadn’t been explored; Orris explained in January Morton buildings aren’t suitable because of the continued moisture and cleaning needed. Benitz also said he is opposed to using “development land” for the site. Greene County Development Corporation offered the site because it is not well suited to most development purposes.

“What we’re all looking for is the best option, the most cost-effective solution. It’s going to be a tough go, but the current situation is not one we can continue,” Ahrenholtz said.


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