April groundbreaking set for new Animal Shelter in Johnson City

Tony Casey • Feb 5, 2014 at 2:20 PM

At the conclusion of Tuesday night’s monthly Animal Control Board meeting, City Manager Pete Peterson asked Washington County-Johnson City Animal Shelter Director Debbie Dobbs a somewhat rhetorical question about the progress of the new shelter.

“Do you feeling like were really moving now?” Peterson asked.

Dobbs said she finally was feeling energized. The group had previously accepted Peterson’s plan to move toward an April ground breaking, which will, they hope, drum up new sources of donations and support from the public. Dobbs and Mayor Ralph Van Brocklin both said they’ve had people express to them that they were waiting for construction to begin to cut a check to the cause. The new location of the shelter will be at 3411 N. Roan St.

And, money might be just what the project for a new animal shelter will need.

Van Brocklin asked members what would be the case if they overshot the $1.5 million promised to them by Johnson City. City Commissioners David Tomita and Clayton Stout both responded that they shouldn’t spend money they’ve not got.

“If we don’t have it, don’t do it,” Tomita said. “If we can’t build this for $2.2 million, we need to go back in the house.”

Thomas Weems, the architect who, at the last meeting, gave the Animal Control Board two options for a building, upon which they decided to go for a barn-shaped shelter with a nearly $2.3 million price tag, said he thinks they’ll have no difficulty coming in at that mark. Weems said he got four calls alone after the last article appeared in the Johnson City Press, with people interested in supporting the shelter.

But, Tomita and Stout pushed for the worst-case scenario decision from the other members on the possibility of going over budget. They decided they would have to go down a list of priorities included in the design, where some features would be cut, if need be. Tomita suggested cutting what he saw as non-essential air conditioning in one of the rooms of the shelter, to which Van Brocklin warned caution.

“Be careful with that comment,” Van Brocklin said, noting that he had donors whose contributions were contingent on features like air conditioning.

He suggested if the project ran past its allotted money mark, they might have to raise money until they came up to budget, but noted that he has two donors willing to immediately donate a collective $200,000 if needed. One thing he doesn’t want to budge on is the functionality of the shelter if they begin chopping equipment and features out of the plans to hit their budget marks.

To move forward with the shelter, Peterson asked that the board OK a plan to have the city agree to fund the service on the $1.5 million which they’d already agreed to give for the next 20 years, which would look appealing to any lenders interested in giving loans to the project.

Weems spoke about the contractors looking to bid for work on parts of the shelter, and said, as is often the case, the bigger names can offer more to projects like this due to the size of their operation. He said it’s usually the same pack of 10 interested companies, but said J.A. Street, from Blountville, seemed to be the most interested and a favorite in the construction of the shelter.

“By the next meeting, we’ll know who we’re going to do business with,” Peterson said.

Recommended for You

    Johnson City Press Videos