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Shelter decision possible Thursday
Delayed twice in past month
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Forsyth County News

Other action

Also at Tuesday’s work session, Forsyth County commissioners:

• Approved adding 25 parking spots by the ball field at Midway Park at a cost of $90,000, which could come from park bond funds. Chairman Charles Laughinghouse voted against the measure, which passed 4-1.

• Authorized some 2010 budget adjustments, including $150,000 in legal fees, by a 4-1 vote.
Commissioner Patrick Bell voted against the measure since the money would come from the county’s reserves.

• Accepted by a 5-0 vote to two change orders from ArcMP. One was for an additional $66,000 for judicial software and another for an extra $17,000 for utility billing software.

— Alyssa LaRenzie

A vote on the design and construction of a county-owned animal shelter could come during tonight’s Forsyth County commission meeting.

Discussion about how and when to build the facility has been rumbling for two months, drawing crowds to commission meetings and stirring contentious talk among officials.

During a Nov. 11 work session, the commission voted 3-2 to approve opening the proposals for review and awarding construction to the lowest bidder.

Work session votes are not binding, however, and the item has since been postponed twice during regular meetings.

The county currently contracts its animal shelter operations with NALAA, which receives $40,000 per month.

In early November, commissioners renewed that deal for another year with a one-year automatic renewal.

They were left with few options since the contract was set to expire Dec. 31, but expressed continued interest in building a county-owned shelter.

Proposals were solicited in September 2009, with a selection committee formed later that year to recommend a suitor.

After many delays, the committee’s selection was revealed Tuesday to be Norcross-based Pond & Co.

Donna Kukarola, the county’s purchasing director, said the company estimates the building will cost about $2.2 million. A total projected cost including site studies, sewer hook-up and furniture came in at about $2.5 million.

Bill Mulrooney of the Humane League of Lake Lanier has been following the commissioners’ discussion on the animal shelter from the start.

He’s viewed a few of the plans from the design firms, though not Pond & Co., and was pleased with them all.

“When it comes to the specs ... I don’t think there’s a real loser there,” Mulrooney said. “The four firms that were narrowed down and competing were all qualified.”

He said shelter supporters are hoping for a positive outcome at tonight’s meeting, where several speakers have been lined up for the public comment portion.

Resident Leslie Greenfield intends to address what she called “three inaccuracies” — that there’s no funding, location and plan.

The plan, she said, came from requirements in the county’s request for a proposal, as well as in proposals from the two organizations offering to operate the shelter.

“The purchasing department has had this information for a year to present to the board, but unfortunately it was postponed so much ... to not allow the purchasing department to share the information and the facts,” Greenfield said.

According to county information, the item was sent out for proposals with the location listed as a site on County Way off Ga. 400 in north Forsyth.

The financing for the shelter has not been clearly identified, though Kukarola said several options have been floated. They include increasing rabies tag fees, a general obligation bond and borrowing from the Georgia Lease Pool.

Other funding possibilities include drawing from the general fund or using money from the next 1-cent sales tax plan, which voters would have to approve.

Chairman Charles Laughinghouse asked Tuesday if the county could use money from an upcoming settlement that will go toward the solid waste fund. The borrowed money could then be repaid through increased fees.

County Attorney Ken Jarrard said he would review the legality of the suggestion prior to tonight’s meeting.

Commissioners Patrick Bell and Brian Tam have expressed opposition to building the shelter until the plan and the funding have been clearly defined.

Bell shared an example, which a resident sent him, of how another Georgia county had determined a full business plan before building its animal shelter.

In an e-mail to that person and others last week, Bell wrote: “Should someone attempt to push this shelter idea through, I will have no choice but to announce my intent to make a motion to rescind the first of January. Then we can get this done properly and responsibly.”

Next month, Commisioners-elect Pete Amos and Todd Levent will fill the seats currently held by Laughinghouse and Jim Harrell, who has been in strong support of building a county-owned shelter.

Unlike the first two postponements, a third one tonight would require a majority vote, bumping the item into next year.