City Commission takes reins in animal shelter fundraising

Gary B. Gray • Oct 24, 2013 at 9:39 PM

The decision this summer by the Johnson City Commission to commit $1.5 million to a new Washington County-Johnson City Animal Shelter was a game-changer long before the Animal Control Board voted Oct. 15 to end its contract with capital campaign consultant Dickerson, Bakker and Associates.

Board members voted to give the North Carolina company 30 days’ notice, officially terminating its contractual relationship Nov. 15 and ending a $5,000 per month agreement that will end up costing the board about $30,000-$35,000, including expenses.

Commissioners actually came to a consensus during their agenda review meeting — one day prior to the ACB meeting — that the city’s contribution, as well as money expected from the county, would cover the first phase of construction on the facility, though no vote ensued.

That occurred the next night, when board members agreed there was enough money in the bank to feel confident a first phase can be completed and that the board’s fundraising committee can take things from here.

There was a scheduled meeting of the City Commission and the ACB the next day, but that meeting was canceled, considering the business to be considered had been acted upon.

“Commissioners figured that because we are the major contributor by far, and we are in agreement on what we’d like to see done on the initial phase of this, that it would be best to let the company go,” said David Tomita, an ACB member as well as a city and county commissioner. “Also, Thomas Weems, the architect, was having to design and redesign the shelter. But what we really want is for there to be a basic layout of the first phase so the fundraising committee will have something to sell — something for people to see.”

Weems still is putting that basic “footprint” together, and he is expected to have the plan, and the basic cost, ready for presentation at the City Commission’s next agenda review meeting Monday.

Tomita said the board has about $2.2 million “in the bank.” This includes the city’s $1.5 million commitment, which comes in the form of debt service, $250,000 in both cash and paving services from the county and an additional $200,000 in the board’s building fund.

“We have more from what the company found and in either committed or pledged funds,” he said. “It’s not going to be palatial, but it will be what we need. The fundraising committee can take it from there.”

The board also agreed it wanted Tommy Burleson onboard to oversee the project. Burleson, owner of Burleson Construction, oversees many of the city’s capital projects. A joint ACB/City Commission meeting is likely in the near future, and the move likely would have to be approved by commissioners at the next regular meeting Nov. 7.

At this point, ground on the first phase of the shelter could be broken within a few months. The entire first phase, which is estimated to cost about $1.9 million, includes what city commissioners consider to be at least the equivalent of the office and kennel space at the existing shelter.

Johnson City Mayor and ACB member Ralph Van Brocklin said this includes the basic structure, about 5,000 square feet of office space, 9,000 square feet of kennel space, site work and architectural fees.

The 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.

A news release said the Cause For Paws fundraising committee met Tuesday to discuss the direction for the campaign following the commission’s decision to place the design of the shelter in the hands of a project manager.

While a total of $303,700 has already been pledged to the campaign, the commission’s actions will require a re-evaluation of the design, cost estimates and budget and is anticipated to take several weeks.

So far, Road Runner Markets has pledged $100,000 to the campaign and General Shale said has said it will provide brick and masonry products for the shelter.

To make a donation to the construction of the new shelter, call shelter director Debbie Dobbs at 926-8769 or fundraising chairman Ralph Van Brocklin at 946-5387.

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