Animal Control Board hires consulting firm

Gary B. Gray • Sep 27, 2012 at 9:30 PM

Stalled fundraising efforts to build the new Washington County-Johnson City Animal Shelter got a potential shot in the arm last week when the Animal Control Board chose a Denver-based consulting firm to conduct a feasibility study, and perhaps lead its fundraising campaign.

Dickerson, Bakker and Associates, which has offices in Knoxville and Asheville, N.C., will be paid $16,500 for the initial study. However, it will stop short of a capital campaign should its findings indicate that significant donors — enough to help cover the $1.75 million to pay for the new shelters’ basic footprint — are in short supply.

Board member and City Commissioner Ralph Van Brocklin has been persistent and consistent in not only recommending this path, but also identifying, briefly vetting and contacting three firms. Members ended up hearing presentations from two of these firms during a three-hour session at the Millennium Centre on Sept. 19.

“We really felt comfortable with this firm,” Van Brocklin said. “We liked both firms — the other being Asheville’s HunterKemper Consulting. But it was obvious that Dickerson Bakker’s sequential method had shown to be successful in the past. We really felt comfortable that they had an organized approach. We had a third firm in mind, but we never could get in touch with them in time to set something up.”

Van Brocklin said the feasibility study will give the board an answer to the first logical question: is the amount needed actually out there?

“If they come back and say it may not be feasible, you have to step back and look at trying another approach,” he said.

Senior Consulting Associate Gary Taylor, who is based in Knoxville, is the lead consultant for the campaign. The company will receive payment for the study once its formal proposal is approved, and the overall campaign will be based on results from the initial study.

“The balance paid to them will be based on proposed pricing of the campaign,” Van Brocklin said. “We’re looking at a monthly fee. It looks like 4 percent of the $1.75 million (about $70,000).”

When the board met in April, City Commissioner and former animal shelter fundraising chairwoman Jane Myron and Humane Society President Beverly Green Hyder collectively announced there existed about $2.8 million in pledged donations with which to build the new shelter’s basic layout, which was $1.2 million at the time.

However, none of that “big money” has found it’s way to the bank — at least not yet. The board also has so far failed to procure renderings to shop around to potential donors. It has about $166,000 on hand for construction, and $100,000 of that is the result of a partial payment by Washington County.

“The $1.2 million was never a very well thought out figure,” Van Brocklin admitted. “We had not advanced far enough along.”

Since the start of this year, the ACB purchased a $500,000, 6.6-acre parcel at 3411 N. Roan St. on which to build the new shelter, and Johnson City’s $350,000 donation plus $150,000 from ABC savings covered the cost of the new site.

That and another $250,000 from the county comes with a stipulation: that should the animal board not have the new facility up and running 24 months after a construction bid is OK’d, the county can ask for its money back.

It never did form a fully functional fundraising committee — one of its main objectives from the start. And the amount for engineering and construction has now stretched to $1.75 million.

At the board’s August meeting, members were informed that Johnson City’s Thomas Weems Architects, which has been awarded an $87,500 contract to design the facility, would be getting to work on a colorful rough draft which can be used as the search for donors continue. Finalized renderings were expected to be ready in 60 to 90 days at that point.

But ACB Chairman and City Manager Pete Peterson explained that the architect “doesn’t have a clue what he’s supposed to do.” He reported that the firm did not yet have enough details about the project to proceed.

The news didn’t sit well.

Former Chairman Rick Gordon had recently resigned, as had Myron. Van Brocklin told the group the fundraising effort had been haphazard and that the board was coming across “poorly.” That’s when Peterson took a seat at the head of the table and board members agreed they needed to scurry down a revised fundraising path.

The sense of urgency was palpable at the board’s meeting earlier this month, and a large part of that push came from Johnson City native and retired Atlanta businessman Jim Reel, who offered his time to head a fundraising drive if necessary. Reel has pledged $50,000 toward a spay and neuter clinic at the new shelter, and said he could raise $1 million and didn’t care to “go after small stuff.”

Van Brocklin said Reel will be a member of the fundraising committee, but the firm will be in control of the capital campaign should they be hired to do so.

Meanwhile, Roadrunner Markets last week handed a $10,000 check to board members to help pay for construction of the new shelter at last week’s City Commission meeting. Roadrunner President Ryan Broyles said two local stations donated 3 cents for every gallon of gas sold in August.

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