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Animal shelter costs rising
Official: These buildings 'very darn expensive'
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Forsyth County News

The cost to build the Forsyth County Animal Shelter has exceeded the projected total in the 1-cent sales tax budget.

The price tag for the new facility on County Way in north Forsyth was estimated at $3 million in the project list for the special purpose local option sales tax, or SPLOST VII, approved by voters in November 2011.

Due to some “unforeseen circumstances,” the current, revised amount is about $352,000 more, said Deputy County Manager Tim Merritt during a Wednesday meeting of the shelter committee.

“From the time we originally did an estimated budget to the time we actually did it, the scope increased because we added the animal control officers in this project,” Merritt said.

The additional 1,360 square feet of space for animal control offices represents about 10 percent of the total building space of 13,761 square feet, he said, which amounts to nearly the increase in budget that will be requested from the county commission.

The funding source will be determined by commissioners, if granted.

Also contributing to the higher cost, the low bids received for design and construction both came in above the estimates, Merritt said.

Working with the architect, the committee authorized some changes to the plan to shave off about $68,000 and lower the budget to its current $3.35 million from the projected costs of the original plan at nearly $3.42 million.

Some of those changes include: reducing the size of the Sally port to house one vehicle; eliminating an outdoor employee area; decreasing the number of windows; changing flooring material in non-kennel areas; and removing an outdoor animal acquaintance area.

The changes also call for holding off on buying 24 cat cages, though the room will be built to accommodate them.

That figure brings the total number of kennels to 215, with a maximum capacity of 378 when doubling up animals in peak times, Merritt said.

The additional cages could possibly be funded by donations in the future, he said.

Commissioner Todd Levent, who serves on the committee, made the motion to recommend the budget changes, which passed 4-0, with Kathy Genovese absent.

After the vote, he said: “These buildings are very specialized and very darn expensive.”

The committee also revisited plans for operating the county-owned shelter as a public, private or partnership venture.

Shelter director for Cherokee County, Sue Garcia, shared information about its operations as public except for contracting out veterinary services.

She said her annual budget is nearly $1 million, excluding animal control.

Garcia said the shelter’s intake numbers have gone down in recent years, which she credits to the community programs that have increased population control education and adoptions.

That decrease in animals has helped significantly with the shelter’s operation and expenses, since Garcia said the number of animals a shelter can hold is limited more by the staff than the space.

The committee will meet again May 22 at 6:45 p.m. and plans to continue discussing plans for operation and hiring a shelter manager soon to help develop the program.