Carson City faces animal shelter funding shortfall

Carson City’s planned animal shelter will exceed the $3.9 million budgeted, city officials said Wednesday, and more money will require a Board of Supervisors supermajority.

City Manager Nick Marano said the cost could reach $4.5 million despite value engineering cutting some project aspects, so a four-vote board majority is necessary to move forward. Mayor Robert Crowell decried the need but called it important city government carry through with its pledge to scrap its outdated shelter for a new one.

“Needless to say, I am not pleased that our original architect’s estimate on the construction cost of the animal shelter was not accurate,” Crowell said. He viewed it as a problem the board must revisit construction plans and the amount allocated under an adopted plan of expenditure.

“At the end of the day, however, it is important that we make good on our promise to construct a no-kill animal shelter that will stand the test of time and meet the needs of our community,” the mayor said.

Marano and Danny Rotter, a city engineer, explained the original architect’s construction-only estimate was less than $3 million and the rest was for soft costs in buildout features, but that proved inadequate and bids came in higher than anticipated. The original low bid was more than $4.1 million. The design firm with which the city contracted in December, 2014, was BDA Architecture of New Mexico, at a cost of almost $312,000.

Marano said he will bring new cost projections to the board at the June 18 meeting but he had informed the mayor and four supervisors the matter was on the way. He said value engineering cuts have since removed various items, though some were returned to the mix because needed shelter performance capabilities would be lost or long-term maintenance costs would prove higher without them. “We value-engineered too much out of it,” he said for this second go-round while adding middle ground has been reached. “All the frills are out,” he said. “This is our best judgement as to what we need.”

The project budget had called for roughly $3.7 million in bond money from city government and $200,000 in private donations raised by the Carson Animal Services Initiative (CASI). After the initial bidders couldn’t get that low, Marano announced the decision to rebid the value engineering cut process began. A goal of finishing construction before the end of this year was abandoned at that point.

Lisa Schuette, who heads CASI, has said fundraising will continue for needs even as and after the shelter is built. Both she and Rotter say CASI has indicated not only will fundraising continue, but specific grants will be sought to help purchase animal shelter equipment.

In an August, 2013, Nevada Appeal article on the initiative, Schuette was said to anticipate then CASI could raise as much as $2 million toward construction of a shelter estimated to cost between $3 million and $4 million. She also said that could take years, something she reiterated Wednesday while asserting again the city needs a new shelter now, and has for some time.

Mark Beauchamp of Shaheen Beauchamp Builders LLC in Carson City, the firm with the low bid when bids were rejected due to the shortfall, expressed interest in the rebidding process, noted there’s no guarantee his firm necessarily would be fortunate enough to submit the low bid again, and lamented the shelter design he believed put him in this position.

“I thought it was over-designed,” he said. “I thought it had all the amenities you could think of, a lot of bells and whistles.”

He questioned whether an out-of-state architect understood types of materials and construction processes in Northern Nevada or was familiar with area needs. Rotter made similar points, including area labor costs in his assessment of what may have helped lead to the low estimate.

The mayor, meanwhile, said the shelter shortfall and its fallout shouldn’t derail other city projects. “I am assured by our staff that the funds are available to accomplish this goal without jeopardizing either the adequacy of the new animal shelter or the other projects under way in our city,” he said. He termed it important to the community “that we move forward and revise the plan of expenditure to accommodate the increased cost of the shelter.”

Those comments referred in part to the multi-purpose athletic center already under construction and the downtown Carson Street makeover being designed to enhance pedestrian traffic, put in a community plaza on West 3rd Street, and eventually spruce up Curry Street. Other projects later envision upgrades to other parts of Carson Street, East William Street, and more cultural capabilities at the Carson City Community Center.

The projects are being financed by bonds that will be repaid based on last year’s one-eighth of a penny boost to the city sales tax.


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