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Plea for funds to complete animal shelter

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Without mincing words, Precinct 2 Commission Bobby Harris brought his colleagues and Judge Richard Evans up to speed regarding the financial status of the still-under-construction county animal control facility, located behind the jail and justice center, off Highway 16 North.
During a regular meeting on Thursday, June 12, the agenda item "status report and projected costs to complete the project" required no action. However, a consensus of opinions - except for those of Precinct 1 Commissioner Bob Grimes, who was absent - seemed likely that a budget amendment would appear on a future agenda. If the motion for a budget amendment allocating the necessary funding from the fund balance is approved, the animal control facility could likely be completed in just a few months.
According to the calculations of Harris and Zane Everett, construction manager, the remainder of expected expenses totals $140,291.88 with approximately $30,000 remaining from the previous budget. Items needed to complete the facility include kennel walls, painting of kennel walls, gates and isolation tops, sealing the kennel floor, electrical, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), septic system, fencing for exercise area, plumbing, paving and the balance of $20,000 for Everett's management fee.
However, the septic system is under construction and base for the parking area has already been paid for.
Reiterating what was explained in the past, Harris said, "The budget we're working from was estimated over three to four years ago." He also added that neither the $30,000 architectural fee nor the $30,000 project manager fee had been included n the original budget.
Harris also reminded the court that the single bid returned for the animal control facility was $867,000. "Even at $120,000 more than our original budget, we're still considerably less than the bid," he said. "Kendall County spent over $1 million and they have problems with their facility."
Noting, "Now comes Paul Harvey's 'the rest of the story'," Evans asked, "How are we going to finish it? Do we do a budget amendment or put it in next year's budget?" Evans said the $100,000 needed to complete the animal facility project would amount to a one-cent increase in the tax rate - if completion of the facility were consigned to the 2014-2015 budget. An alternative would be to take the needed funds out of the fund balance this year. Also, during budget negotiations for fiscal year 2014-2015, other items could be cut with the savings earmarked for the animal shelter, which, everyone agreed, the county sorely needs.
"I'm just looking for some guidance here," Evans said. "This is just a discussion. We must come back and do an (budget) amendment."
"I think it would be a shame to let the building sit there half completed," Harris said. "Now that summer's here, the sooner we get the animals in there, the better."
Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Wilkerson, who is working with Harris on the project, and Precinct 4 Commissioner Doug King concurred.
Harris added, "I don't want to delay finishing this until next year. We've been working on it for years." He opted for taking the money out of the fund balance, noting, "Appraisals will increase and the money will be put back in."
"We robbed the fund balance last year. You just can't keep doing it," Evans said. The fund balance was raided last year to pay for salary increases for county employees and other items according to county auditor Christina Moreno.
Everett assured Evans that the latest financial figures would definitely give (the county) a fully operational building in which to house stray dogs and cats. "We can complete the kennels in the back end of the structure while we continue working on the front," he said.
Harris also said he and Wilkerson will continue to attempt to reduce current bids to the bone. "If we can save an additional $10,000 that's 10 percent of the overrun," he said.
"So, you're saying with these figures, this building would be ready to go?" Evans asked.
"Yes, it will be ready to go," came a collective reply.
An action item on last week's agenda item concerning the animal control facility will likely resurface during the regular commissioners court meeting on Thursday, June 26 - if Harris and Wilkerson have anything to say about it.