Animal Control Board members on Wednesday unanimously approved a nearly $2.3 million barn-shaped structure to serve as Washington County-Johnson City Animal Shelter’s new home.
The airy 15,650-square-foot structure was a clear winner over a building with similar in capacity but designed with a flat roof, squared walls and a price tag of about $2.1 million.
Architect Thomas Weems, whose mettle definitely has been tested over the past several years while board members crunched numbers and sorted out details, brought the two options to the table with plenty of supporting documentation.
After about a half-hour of debate on whether a savings could be had with the large design by removing HVAC costs, members decided to go forward provided Weems returns with a more specific operating cost analysis.
“We’re there — we can do this,” City Manager Pete Peterson said.
The building will have 9,000 square feet of kennel space and 6,650 square feet of office space. It also features a steel roof and prefabricated exterior brick, a large glass “storefront” look at the entrance, 4-inch-thick interior masonry walls, acoustical ceilings and a 60-ton heating and cooling system to keep animals comfortable.
Weems said if everything goes smoothly, site work could begin in April.
About $600,000 has been collected in pledges and donations, including funding from Washington County. Johnson City committed $1.5 million to what is being considered the first phase, meaning the board has at least $2.1 million.
Road Runner Markets also has pledged $100,000 to the fundraising campaign. And some of the costs will be deferred. General Shale, for example, has said the company will provide brick and masonry products for the shelter at the 6.6-acre tract of off North Roan Street.
Also, Washington County already has given $100,000, and County Commissioners have agreed to pitch in another $150,000 when ground is broken, plus $100,000 worth of paving services.
“As far as the general features, I think we’re ready to get going on the ‘big document,’” said Johnson City Mayor Ralph Van Brocklin, who has committed $25,000 toward the project.”
He was referring to the fine print.
First, Peterson will meet with the city’s finance department staff and begin clearing the way. The Animal Control Board must issue the $1.5 million in debt, not the city. But the city will contribute amounts equal to the debt service on the loan.
The City Commission is expected to review the plan in February.
Meanwhile, Weems, who would be responsible for securing a company to perform the job, said he has identified a “superior” local contractor who would bid the job in two components: a pre-construction phase and a construction phase.
But neither he, nor several board members who seemed to have an idea of who the contractor was, revealed any names.
He also said a contract could be worked out that would send money back to the board should the end cost come in under the “set” estimate.
“We’ve gone around the block a couple times to get something everybody can agree on,” he said. “What seemed to be the driver in this was operational costs.”
He was right.
“I’d be really interested in the annual operating costs,” Peterson said. “You’ve probably got a 50-year building. Whichever building is more energy efficient is the one I’m likely to favor.”
Weems said the larger building would require less mechanical heating and cooling and would be constructed with better ventilation than the other option. Board members then asked Weems to conduct a study in which more specific HVAC operating parameters could be identified.
“I will make you feel as comfortable as I can,” he said.
The new shelter’s second phase includes an additional 5,000 square feet of office space, 3,000 to 4,000 square feet of additional kennel space off the back of the building, a spay and neuter clinic for which $50,000 has been donated for equipment, a possible meeting space and rooms for guests considering adoption.
The Cause For Paws fundraising committee, which includes some well-known movers and shakers, remains under full throttle. Money raised through the committee is expected to pay for the second phase.
To make a donation for construction of the new shelter, call Washington County-Johnson City Animal Shelter Director Debbie Dobbs, 926-8769, or fundraising chairman Ralph Van Brocklin, 946-5387.