Fundraising, design for new Washington County-Johnson City Animal Shelter back on track

Gary B. Gray • Oct 24, 2012 at 9:43 AM

The Animal Control Board has in the past two months ditched a plan to raise money on its own for the new Washington County-Johnson City Animal Shelter, inked a contract with a firm to conduct a feasibility study to verify that funds are available for the $1.75 million building’s “footprint,” picked a tentative design for the new structure and has its new board chairman on quick, communicative terms with the architect.

On Tuesday, board members agreed to send City Manager and Board Chair Pete Peterson back to the table with architect Thomas Weems to fast track a slight change in the general design of the “rural” building’s exterior walls. Members unanimously chose the design over an urban version, which most said was not as appealing.

Once Weems has revamped the design of this basic 8,000-10,000 square-foot building that will be built on a 6.6-acre parcel at 3411 N. Roan St., each member will receive a copy. Should there remain any dissatisfaction, the board will convene a special called meeting to hash out an agreement.

Johnson City’s Thomas Weems Architects has been awarded an $87,500 contract to design the facility.

“We decided to do what we’re calling a ‘phase 1,’ which is this general design, but it in no way represents a final design,” Peterson said. “In round numbers, you probably could build either version for about $1 million. But you can build out from there as fundraising revenues continue to come in.”

It should be made clear that this design is in rudimentary form, and it will be used for general purposes to allow possible donors to get a glimpse of what they’re helping fund. It also is only a starting point for Weems, who will develop the details, such as skylights, HVAC system, roofing, colors and final layout as the project progresses.

“We’re talking in very broad generalities here,” said board member and County Commissioner David Tomita. “We can work out the details in time.”

Peterson said the consulting firm, Dickerson, Bakker and Associates, which is based in Denver but has offices in Knoxville and Asheville, wants a footprint of the project so it can get to work on identifying and approaching donors. At the start of this capital campaign, that means the five- and six-figure numbers.

The board approved cutting the company a $4,125 check so they can get to work immediately. That is partial payment of the $16,500 the company will receive for the initial study, and this money came out of the board’s roughly $176,000 building fund set up in a special account.

The majority of that -- $100,000 — came from Washington County, which has agreed to give that, and another $250,000, under the stipulation that should the animal board not have the new facility up and running 24 months after a construction bid is OK’d, the county can ask for its money back.

Johnson City’s $350,000 donation plus $150,000 from ABC savings covered the cost of the new site.

“If people don’t know by now, it’s going to take a bigger group than this five-member guidance committee to make for a successful campaign,” Peterson said.

“You’re preaching to the choir,” Van Brocklin quipped.

Van Brocklin first introduced the idea of hiring a professional firm in April, and he personally sought out several firms from which to choose. That idea was dropped when it was assumed there were some big-time donors committed to contributing an amount equaling more than twice the amount to build the original $1.2 million footprint.

When the board met in April, City Commissioner and former animal shelter fundraising chairwoman Jane Myron and Humane Society President Beverly Green Hyder collectively announced there existed about $2.8 million in pledged donations with which to build the new shelter’s basic layout, which was $1.2 million at the time.

It turned out that commitment was not as stable as once thought. Myron and former board chairman Rick Gordon stepped down in July.

Senior Consulting Associate Gary Taylor, who is based in Knoxville, is the lead consultant for the campaign.

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