Several Forsyth residents told the county’s animal shelter committee Wednesday night that the facility should hold more animals for the money being spent.
Their comments came at the beginning of the group’s meeting, following the announcement last week that the shelter could have as few as 69 dog and 66 cat spots if the construction bids come in with high prices.
The county’s lead contracted architect, Bill Daggett of Shelterplanners.com, further explained the flexible housing model in his building program presentation.
According to Daggett, the model is designed to maximize space for the animals’ well-being and adoption potential, but also allows room for more if the need arises.
By his estimates, about 240 dogs and cats can actually fit in the spots by “double bunking” in the case that the budget allows only for the smaller number of spaces.
Each spot provides more space for two animals in one than the average of 15 square feet per animal in the county’s current shelter, which the private owner no longer wants to operate.
In determining how big a facility the county can afford, Daggett also plans to seek pricing from construction bidders for an additional 32 spots.
If those were doubled up, they would allow for 64 more animals in the building or a total of 304 when maxed out.
“This is not something that we would recommend for any significant length of time,” Daggett said, “but it is certainly doable.”
He added that he expects with the current construction market prices, the county likely will be able to build the “optimum shelter size,” which would include 85 dog and 82 cat spots.
That shelter is estimated at 14,101 square feet, while the smaller building comes in at 11,472 square feet.
Some of those who attended the Wednesday meeting were associated with the Dawson County shelter, which is about 5,000 square feet and typically holds from 120 to 200 animals.
Bill Mulrooney of the Humane League of Lake Lanier said that building cost about $1 million to complete.
“For 11,000 square feet or 15,000 square feet, we can get more animals in there,” Mulrooney said. “We all went to the polls thinking we’re going to have a better shelter than we have now, we’re going to be bigger [and] we’re going to be able to do a lot more with it.”
The budget for the construction of the Forsyth shelter has been set at about $2.45 million, a number that committee member Lance White questioned after the building program presentation.
The 1-cent sales tax referendum included nearly $3 million for the construction of the shelter.
Commissioner Todd Levent, who also serves on the committee, said part of the reason that figure went up from the original $2.6 million proposed was to allow for money to buy animal control vehicles.
“If we’re going to eventually take this out of the sheriff’s control,” Levent said, “those vehicles are absolute worn-out garbage. So I asked for another $200,000 or so we can replace a couple vehicles.”
That was discussed in an open meeting, he said, which will include it as part of the sales tax description as promised to voters.
White said the wording for the referendum was to “build an animal control shelter, not animal control offices and a facility and all that.”
The building program includes about 300 square feet for offices for animal control and 1,200 for the vehicle intake, which will also be used for storage.
Those features were included in the “essential square footage” plan.
Several speakers also pointed to the importance of including one of the features listed in the alternate pricing plan — a surgical suite and doing on-site spaying and neutering of animals to control the unwanted pet population.
Adrienne Patterson, a former Dawson County shelter board member, credited that facility’s reduction from a 60-percent to a 2-percent kill rate to the emphasis on that procedure during in-house vet care.
“What we spent on outside veterinary care was one of the reasons why 60 percent of the animals died because we couldn’t afford to spay and neuter,” Patterson said. “We would get to the point that we were so overfull that all of these animals were being put down because we couldn’t take them out for adoption because they weren’t spayed and neutered.”
She noted that pet overpopulation is a “taxpayer-generated problem” when people do not fix their pets.
The Dawson shelter, which is contracted through the humane society in that county, has two vets who donate or offer time at low cost.
The proposal for employees at Forsyth County’s shelter included a minimum of 11 employees, with six in administrative positions and five vet techs, but no veterinarian.
The specifics of the operations at the shelter will be revisited once the design is complete.
The committee members planned to review Daggett’s presented program and offer feedback toward the design plan by next week.
The group’s next meeting is set for 6:45 p.m. Sept. 19.