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Animal shelter architect told to ‘stand down’

June 4th, 2013 10:22 pm by Gary B. Gray

Animal shelter architect told to ‘stand down’

If there were any significant financial or physical movement on the construction of the new Washington County-Johnson City Animal Shelter at the Animal Control Board’s Tuesday night meeting, it would have been conspicuously stated in this sentence.

Instead, architect Thomas Weems was told to “stand down” on any plans to produce specific building plans on a design that won favor with board members nearly six months ago. He will now go back to the drawing board and produce a less costly structure comprised of a steel roof and prefabricated brick instead of the red siding that once was going to grace the shelter’s three planned phases: a main building, a kennel and a spay/neuter clinic.

City Manager Pete Peterson asked Weems if he had found any savings to be had.

“Oh yeah, you just don’t have the money to do this,” he said, referring to the original design. “We need to go more with a pre-engineered roof with a flat face on it. With the direction it appears this has to go, it appears we cannot go the way we wanted. There’s been almost no interaction between me and the board to this point. I don’t know what your budget is. I only know what I’ve been reading in the paper.” 

Peterson rang out: “Don’t always believe what you read in the paper.”

Since the board’s last meeting, there have been no major donors identified, though North Carolina-based Dickerson, Bakker and Associates has received its first $5,000 payment and is owed another by June 15.

Peterson had been asked to check into placing a building or an activity on the 6.6-acre tract of off North Roan Street on which the new Washington County-Johnson City Animal Shelter’s estimated $1.2 million “footprint” will be built.

He said Tuesday he had not. And since the shelter cannot gain tax exempt status when there is no nonprofit activity taking place on the lot, the board will have to continue to pay about $600 a month in property tax. That money will come out of the board’s building fund, which on Tuesday sat at about $128,000.

Last month, board members revealed for the first time that they were open to selling roughly 1-acre of land that fronts the property. Peterson has said Washington County 911 Director Bob McNeil was interested in moving the communications center to the site and that he did not want to rehab the current building.

Apparently any chance of working out a deal with McNeil -- one that would pay off for the board -- has been dropped. 

The conversation Tuesday turned to the matter of fundraising.

“It will still be a couple of months before fundraising gets in full swing,” said Johnson City Mayor and board member Ralph Van Brocklin. “We need to develop materials, including flyers, handouts and brochures. We also need to identify donors. Several prospective donors have been contacted.”

City Commissioner and board member David Tomita asked Van Brocklin if a fundraising committee had been formed, and the mayor answered in the affirmative.

“Who’s on the committee?” Tomita asked.

“I’ll be happy to tell you later,” Van Brocklin replied, ending any further discussion on that subject. 

Meanwhile, Weems said he will generate some general graphic elements of the revised design. 

“I think you should stand down until we get a handle on what we can do,” Tomita said.

Weems also said the cost of developing the site alone had gone up by about 30 percent due to increased Environmental Protection Agency requirements bringing to $500,000 the amount it will take to prepare the property for construction of the buildings.   

“We need to get a handle on the size of the building before we start asking for money,” Peterson said.

 Van Brocklin first introduced the idea of hiring a professional firm more than a year ago. The 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. 

Those commitments vanished, and there has been no indication -- at least none has been given publicly --  that other heavy-hitting donors are willing to step up or what amounts they may have in mind.  

For related stories click the links below:

Animal Control Board's version of contract sent back to N.C. company

Animal Control Board regroups

Animal Control Board hires consulting firm

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