Johnson City’s recent $1.5 million commitment to help build the new Washington County-Johnson City Animal Shelter had an immediate effect as far as funds are concerned, but the move also has produced a stir on the positive side of the financial ledger in other ways and appears to have returned to the Animal Control Board a sense of urgency to get things moving.
Board members on Tuesday tossed more options on the table than they have for a long time, and the city’s contribution has opened the door for more than a basic structure on the 6.6-acre lot off North Roan Street. A spay-neuter clinic and a kennel expansion are two items now seen as obtainable.
“My best estimate is $2.4 million,” said Johnson City mayor and board member Ralph Van Brocklin.
That’s about double what has been considered the cost of the building’s “footprint.”
Here’s what makes that mark reasonable: a $1.5 million infusion form the City Commission; the potential sale of 1 acre of frontage on the new property to Washington County 911 (appraised at nearly $1 million); an unnamed but identified “anchor donor” who North Carolina-based Dickerson, Bakker and Associates — the company hired to head the capital campaign — has been in contact with; fundraising committee member Jim Reel’s promise of $50,000 for operating equipment when the clinic is established; and Washington County’s remaining $250,000 commitment.
Not counting substantial donations waiting in the wings from Van Brocklin, and potentially others, as well as other future monies raised by Dickerson Bakker and money raised by the board’s fundraising committee, the very realistic amount that could be in place for construction is about $2.8 million.
That’s roughly the same amount board members thought was coming from donors more than a year ago. And it was for that reason they balked at hiring a consultant at the time. In addition, that total is a far cry from what the board has in it’s building fund — about $125,000.
So what’s next?
City Manager and board member Pete Peterson will initiate a appraisal of the 6.6 acres, and get a more specific cost on the 1 acre of frontage. He also got on the horn Tuesday night with County Mayor Dan Eldridge to gain assurance the county would be following through on its commitment. Also, he wanted to have Eldridge inquire with the county’s Budget Committee to see if more money could be found.
That committee meets early this morning.
The city wrote the board a check for $350,000 about a year ago, and that was used to help buy the property.
Peterson, Van Brocklin and Animal Shelter Director Debbie Dobbs have and will be meeting with architect Thomas Weems to come up with some schematics which will include the basic structure and an expanded kennel and a spay-neuter clinic as alternatives.
This is being done for two main reasons: to determine, as closely as possible, what the structure(s) will cost, and to get these plans in the hands of consultants who then will have a redesigned but realistic product to sell.
“The $1.5 million is not enough to build what we really want to build,” Peterson said. “My personal opinion is we need to focus on kennel space so that you can have an opportunity for animals to have a longer stay.”
Peterson also said that 911 “would be an easy neighbor to deal with. They’re inside most of the time, and the noise won’t be an issue for them.”
Money from this sale — to 911 or to another entity — would go directly to the board.
Van Brocklin reminded board members that the facility must have functionality, but must also not “give the appearance of warehousing.”
“We don’t want to over-build, but we don’t want to scrimp,” he said. “We’re already looking at some options. I need plans from him (Weems) so we can get started. And the fundraising committee is waiting for a little more input.”
He also asked that more information be obtained regarding the kennel expansion and spay-neuter clinic.
Dobbs said a veterinarian and a technician would need to be present up to three days a week for the purpose of the latter. She also said she knew of no additional people that would have to be hired to carry out this function.
Van Brocklin turned to County Commissioner and board member Pat Wolfe and asked if there was “any likelihood” the County Commission would not come through on their commitment.
Wolfe chuckled, paused, then said, “I’m not on the Budget Committee, and I’m not in the majority most of the time. I feel like the majority of the County Commission does want to work to get this thing done.”