When the Washington County-Johnson City Animal Control Board met in April, members announced that there already existed about $2.8 million in pledged donations with which to build a $1.2 million “footprint” of the new animal shelter.
A capital campaign to raise money for construction was only in its formative stages at the time, and no one was labeling the pledges money in the bank. Still, there was a strong sense of confidence that some big things were about to happen money wise.
Here’s how things stood at the start of Tuesday’s meeting: City Commissioner and shelter fundraising committee chairwoman Jane Myron had recently resigned; Board Chairman Rick Gordon stepped down at the end of last month; the new estimate for site work and construction has risen to $1.75 million; the board has only $151,000 on hand for construction of the new shelter, and an Asheville fundraising campaign firm is expected here in early September for an interview.
“We’ve started down a fundraising path, and it’s really been haphazard,” said Ralph Van Brocklin, the City Commissioner and the board member who will be hooking up with the Asheville firm. “I think we’re coming across poorly now. I would like to see a comprehensive plan in place before we go out in search of donors. I think we need to look at hiring professional help. In my opinion, we don’t have a plan formulated.”
Gordon had said the board hoped to get started on construction by late summer.
It’s late summer.
“That’s actually my spot,” City Manager Pete Peterson said Tuesday at the Johnson City Public Library when members began talking about how to go about finding a new chairman. “I appointed Rick to serve. But in light of what’s going on, I think the board needs a lot closer guidance. I plan to help with that, and I’ll be encouraging (Washington County Mayor) Dan Eldridge to do the same. We don’t want to lose the momentum we have.”
At the April meeting, Myron said she had a $1 million donor waiting in the wings, and member and Humane Society President Beverly Green Hyder said she had spoken to a person that was “ready to drop $1.5 million” for a spay and neuter clinic wing at the shelter.
She also mentioned that she also had an additional $300,000 worth of commitments.
“There is no confirmation on the big-time donations,” Debbie Dobbs, animal shelter director, said Tuesday.
The comments made in April caused County Commissioner and board member David Tomita to withdraw his motion to contact and perhaps hire Indiana-based Dickerson Bakker & Associates to help the board and an anticipated 25-member fundraising team determine if there was $1.2 million out there in the community that could be raised to build the core building.
“This is not the first time we’ve been down this road,” Tomita said Tuesday. “It seems like what we’ve done up to now has been so disjointed. We can’t run a capital campaign and meet once a month.”
At present, there are eight to 10 member on the fundraising committee originally set for 25 people.
Johnson City’s Thomas Weems Architects has been awarded an $87,500 contract to design the facility. Members agreed Tuesday to instruct Weems to create a colorful rough draft which can be used as the search for donors continue.
Peterson said the group needed to come up with something to “take out to the community.”
“I think you need a slick presentation -- a very professionally done piece that people would want to be associated with,” he said. “If I’m going to give $50,000, I want to see something interesting.”
Dobbs said Weems should have finalized renderings and plans ready within 60-90 days.
The names of the potential large donors have not been revealed, but board and fundraising committee members plan to have a sales and donation tent at this month’s races at Bristol Motor Speedway, hot dog sales at Walmart and brick and tile sales. They already have held a bluegrass fundraiser at Down Home, and some of the 2,000 donor cards printed have been handed out.
It also was April when the board closed on the $500,000, 6.6-acre property at 3411 N. Roan St. where a new animal shelter will be built to replace the current overcrowded and dilapidated facility.
Johnson City’s $350,000 donation plus $150,000 from Animal Control Board savings covered the cost.
Washington County Commissioners approved a resolution to pay the board $350,000 in increments — $100,000 up front, $150,000 when the board has raised $1 million, and up to $100,000 in paving.
That resolution included a 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.
County Commissioner Mark Ferguson said the announcement by board members that donations totalling about $2.8 million could come in to help fund construction did have an effect on the way he structured the amended resolution.