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Director, board OK new animal shelter site

Gary B. Gray • Jan 26, 2012 at 10:35 PM

The Washington County/Johnson City Animal Shelter has a new home.

City Manager Pete Peterson told members of the Johnson City/Washington County Liaison Committee on Thursday night that the Animal Control Board and shelter Director Debbie Dobbs have OK’d an empty 6.6-acre lot off North Roan Street near West Mountain View Road on which the new shelter will be built.

“The board informed us today (Thursday) that they wanted to go forward with this,” Peterson said. “We’re looking at building a brand new building at the location.”

Peterson said the “ultimate build out,” or maximum space that could be made available for the shelter, could be more than 20,000 square feet and possibly include retail space and a clinic. He said the property is listed on the tax rolls at about $900,000. But the owner, who was not identified, has agreed to sell the property for $500,000.

Both Johnson City and Washington County have committed $350,000 each toward the purchase of a new site. Peterson said the City Commission would vote to appropriate its share at its Feb. 2 meeting. County officials are expected to do the same soon.

The county plans to use a portion of the money made from the sale of the Downtown Centre toward its half of the purchase. The Johnson City Development Authority has agreed to pay the county $1 million for the building. The City Commission approved the allocation, which will come from its Industrial Park/Med-Tech Park fund.

Most city and county officials based the $700,000 joint venture on the cost of buying property at 103 L.P. Auer Road and renovating an existing 16,000-square-foot structure at that site. Until late June, it appeared this choice was a shoo-in. But Peterson and County Mayor Dan Eldridge agreed to solicit alternative sites.

Johnson City Public Works Director Phil Pindzola was tasked with searching for prospective locations and communicating with board members on the feasibility of their use. During the summer, he informed everyone involved that the L.P. Auer location was in a flood plain and could prove to be more expensive to develop than first anticipated.

He also did not stray from initial thoughts that a desirable site would be one that’s near Interstate 26 or a major, accessible arterial road. He also has said repeatedly he would prefer a location in the Boones Creek area.

“The Animal Control Board is working on a capital campaign to raise money for the structure, and I think they should own it,” Peterson said. “But I think an agreement with them and the city and county could be drawn up to include that if they decide to sell it, some of those proceeds would go back to us.”

A recent study showed it would cost about $3.8 million to build a proper facility. And it is imperative that the Animal Control Board, a nonprofit, use not only some of its reserves but also engage in a full-throttle fundraising campaign so a new building can be constructed. That building may not have all the desired square footage in the beginning, but it will have the capacity to expand as more funds become available.

The board also may choose to borrow money, but that is not an option ready to be acted on at this time.

Peterson said there are several verbal commitments from businesses and individuals that have expressed an interest in making donations. He also suggested that Dobbs meet with a local architect as soon as possible.

The current animal shelter facility, at 525 Sells Ave., is owned by the animal control board, but the city owns the land under the building and intends to sell it for commercial development.

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