$4.5 million Carson City animal shelter approved

A $4.5 million animal shelter budget was authorized Thursday for Carson City’s proposed facility, but without breaching a $4 million cap in city sales tax money.

The Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to amend a plan of expenditure for capital projects, increasing the top line for the shelter budget but holding firm on the plan’s limit of at least a penny less than $4 million in city sales tax-related bonds allocated for the new shelter. The Reno-based Nevada Humane Society, which had pledged $225,000 for the project Tuesday night, tossed in $20,710 Thursday. Mayor Robert Crowell announced the additional amount.

“That is correct,” said Mendy K. Elliott, a society board member as she confirmed the overall $255,710 plege to help bridge the funding shortfall. She then joked: “I may not be on the (society) board tomorrow.”

“Today is a new day,” an elated mayor said after applause from the nearly overflow crowd in the Sierra Room at the Carson City Community Center. The project orginally was budgeted at $3.9 million, with $200,000 in donations through the Carson Animal Services Initiative (CASI), but the bids came in at $4.1 million or more. City staff cut some items but in the end couldn’t get below $4.498 million though City Manager Nick Marano said Cadillac features were axed.

Changing the expenditure plan required a supermajority vote of four supporters on the five-member city governing board.

That plan was a binding commitment and had to be changed by a supermajority to meet the nearly $4.5 million total, but Supervisor Lori Bagwell said what she called the $3,999,999.99 cap in city taxes — which she wouldn’t breach — could be left intact and yet authorization was possible. Additional flexibility was built in by cutting a construction contingency amount from 10 percent to 8 percent.

The mayor called for a short recess so staff could put pencils to work on the plan to learn whether or how much the project would be short by using the nearly $4 million in tax money, the CASI donations, the humane society’s $225,000 commitment to buy furniture, fixtures and equipment, and lowering the contingency percentage. The gap then came in at about $20,000, so society representatives said the organization would pick up that slack.

Kevin Ryan, CEO of the society who has been running Carson City Animal Services and the city’s half century old shelter since October of last year, in earlier testimony called the $225,000 commitment his board made Tuesday a stretch but also said it was important. “Carson City is our home now, too,” he said. “This is a substantial investment for us” but despite some things lost the facility here is needed and the revamped plan still “salvages the clinic.” That was a reference to his repeated assertions a clinic for spay/neuter operations, micro-chipping for owner identifications, and sound medical treatment is necessary.

Supervisor Jim Shirk, who dissented on the authorizing vote in the end but praised the process along with staff and board patience with his many questions, asked Ryan if his organization could bridge the entire funding gap by fund raising. At that point, it looked like the gap was more than after additional discussion and changes, prompting Ryan to reply that likely “would be incredibly difficult.”

Shirk also asked if the new shelter would have a veterinarian on staff and if that cost would be built into future contracts with the city to handle animal services. The current pact is for $700,000 a year, which approximates the city’s animal services/shelter budget before Marano and Ryan and the city’s governing board struck the deal to have the society handle the job.

Ryan acknowledged when the facility gets built, the pact likely would require more but said that wouldn’t be due to a vet on staff. “The vet will not directly or profoundly effect the contract,” he said.

Various people testified either for or against the plan.

Among the opponents of spending more tax money was Carol Howell, though she said she loves animals and told the board to go for it if the tax money isn’t boosted. However, she clearly felt other needs were important as well. “We have other priorities in this city than to do something this grandiose,” she said.

Lisa Schuette, founder of CASI, said the organization would continue fund raising and urged authorization. She sought what she called “humane and competent sheltering.”

After the approval both sides continued their testimony.

Don Leonard said he could buy a house for less than half the square footage cost of the shelter and decried government spending impacting taxpayers. “Somewhere this has got to stop, ladies and gentlemen,” he said.

Tommy Hughes and Robin Travis, meanwhile, were pleased. Hughes thanked Marano for bringing the humane society to Carson City and Bagwell for deciding to serve on a citizens oversight committee reviewing society operations here. Travis, a CASI member, expressed her pleasure at the outcome by praising the community. “Carson City is the capital of the U.S,” she said.

The project still will require another bid procedure to select an eventual contractor before construction begins.


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