Downsizing plans for a new animal shelter in light of a $770,000 funding shortfall was a main topic at the city’s bond project task force meeting Tuesday at Pine Bluff civic complex.
Project architect Fred Reed said that several anticipated funding sources — including funds from Jefferson County and grants from entities including the Jefferson County Humane Society — did not come to fruition.
Reed fielded questions and listened to suggestions from task force members to aid him in drawing up new blueprints for a scaled-down animal shelter.
“We could downsize the number of dog cages to around 45 and eliminate plans for employee showers and a conference room in order to bring costs more in line with what our operating budget can handle,” Pine Bluff Police Chief Jeff Hubanks said. Animal control is under police department supervision.
Reed said that the current plans call for as many as 64 dog cages in addition to 10 or so cages that would be utilized for new animal quarantine prior to a dog or cat’s introduction into the general population.
“While the original plans call for an expenditure of between $1.6 million and $1.8 million, we actually have just over $1 million to work with,” Reed said.
“We will have to prioritize our needs and see what we can do,” Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth said. “It sounds like we are aiming for 45 dog cages and 10 cat cages.”
The group agreed that the addition of central heating and cooling throughout the facility is a necessity.
“We toured through several municipal shelters in the state and almost all of them provided climate control for the animals,” Reed said.
Animal Control Director Lt. Michael Jenkins said that he and his staff do everything that they can to keep the animals in their care comfortable.
“Right now we have a whole lot of fans in there, whatever we need to do to keep them cool,” Jenkins said.
Hubanks said that shelter capacity is not based solely on the number of cages.
“Some dogs can be kept two to a cage and, of course, a dog with puppies will be together in one cage,” Hubanks said.
“We need to keep the laundry room and the veterinary facilities because we have been doing without in our current building,” Jenkins said. “We get a lot of donated towels, but with nowhere to wash them on site, we have to throw away a lot of them. The ones we do get washed are thanks to our volunteers who take them home.”
Hubanks suggested the possibility of sticking to a full renovation of the existing shelter as a cost-saving measure.
“A new building really eats up funds,” Hubanks said.
Reed said that such a renovation may actually entail more work than a new building.
“Trying to install duct work for the heating and cooling through those existing trusses is not an easy job,” Reed said.
Pine Bluff Economic and Community Development Director Larry Matthews said he was in favor of building a new structure.
“Maybe we can we put it all under one roof in a new building and leave out any renovation of the existing shelter,” Matthews said.
The group agreed that any new construction will be configured to allow for expansion once additional funding is secured at a later date.
City finance Director Steve Miller said $700,000 is in the city’s bond reserve fund.
“There are a number of projects that could use that money,” Miller said. “Around $890,000 per year goes into that fund. So we will have funding options for this project in the future.”
Reed said that he will need up to three weeks to rework the project plans.
Matthews said that Mizan Rahman, the lead architect of the Townsend Park baseball field and Saracen Landing splash park projects, was unable to attend the meeting. A followup meeting has been scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday, July 8, for updates from Rahman on those projects.
Pine Bluff voters approved a five-eighth cent sales tax and several bond issues in a February 2011 special election to fund a number of projects, including a multi-purpose center — which is still in the works — and a new fire station, which has been completed.