Carson City Animal Shelter budget gap mulled by supervisors

A funding gap in Carson City’s animal shelter project budget would require support from at least three supervisors to be bridged, but all four are mum about their intentions for now.

The shortfall of more than $500,000 in a project originally set to cost $3.9 million, at least as currently projected by city government staff, means on June 18 the Board of Supervisors likely are going to be asked to provide a four vote supermajority to change the plan of expenditure. Of the five-member board, only Mayor Robert Crowell said outright he believes the board’s pledge of a new shelter must be honored.

A couple of supervisors made comments that sounded as though they may be open to some additional funding, but said they’ll await more information or seek details themselves. Supervisor Lori Bagwell, for example, wants to hear from local veterinarians about whether a surgical clinic or center is necessary at the new shelter.

“I’m interested in hearing from the local vets with hospitals about the need for the surgical center,” she said, “and from CASI (Carson Animal Shelter Initiative) concerning grant opportunities for equipment. A new shelter is needed, but we need to spend the taxpayers’ dollars wisely.”

She also signaled she would scour things left in, or taken out and then returned to the project funding mix after initial bids all came in over budget and were rejected. Mark Beauchamp of Shaheen Beauchamp Builders, LLC, of Carson City, the low bidder, said the shelter was overdesigned and attributed that to an out-of-state designer unfamiliar with Northern Nevada. The designer was BDA Architecture of New Mexico.

City Manager Nick Marano, when he announced the bid rejection, said the project would be rebid after value engineering changes. Last week, however, he disclosed after that was done there’s still a shortfall.

Supervisor Karen Abowd, like Bagwell, sounded supportive of the shelter but was unwilling to commit fully until she knew more. She did say she wished now that a CMAR (construction manager at risk) process could have incorporated the value engineering techniques earlier to remove whatever was able to be cut from the beginning.

Supervisors Brad Bonkowski and Jim Shirk said they also would get more information before making up their minds or signaling their intent, but volunteered little else last week.

Marano, meanwhile, cited overall costs of between $3.6 million and $3.7 million for construction and contingency after value engineering, plus associated so-called “soft costs” that included such things as the $312,000 to BDA in New Mexico, kennel pods, cat condos, exam tables, conference desks and chairs, commercial washers and dryers, permits, special inspections and testing, wash basin power, off-site utilities and the like.

He said items first taken out after the initial bid process and rejection, using the value engineering scrutiny, then put back in due to need totaled more than $365,000.

Examples include such things as an indoor garage with three-sided sally port for two trucks with added locking gates, part of security concerns; good long-term roofing materials; an LED lighting package; steel fencing, appropriate fencing, and other items. In all there were 10 items listed as “value engineering items that were previously taken out of the project, but now placed back in.”

Kevin Ryan, CEO of the Nevada Humane Society who runs Carson City animal services and the current shelter, is familiar with the project trim work though it isn’t his work product. He said he thought city staff had cut what it could while still trying to build a shelter that can meet needs for years to come. Regarding the surgical center matter raised by Bagwell, he offered a spirited argument for it.

“Obviously, the clinic is very important,” he said. Ryan said being able to do spay and neuter work, implant microchips, do medical work on hurt animals and the like in house is less expensive than farming it out to local vets or taking animals to the society’s Reno area facility. He said it would be penny wise and pound foolish to scrap the clinic. He called it a shelter “lynch pin.”

As for CASI, which already has raised nearly $200,000 for the project, the founder has said the private sector fundraising arm intends to continue. She has indicated not only will donations be solicited, but grants will be sought for things like equipment.

“Of course I am hoping the supermajority votes are there, as are many people,” said Lisa Schuette, CASI founder. “We are incredibly grateful that money is coming from the city. When I founded CASI, it didn’t seem to be an option.” That was a reference to her contention when she began and said CASI would raise $2 million, no local government funding support was in sight and she figured it would take years to do it privately.

The latest accounting available regarding donations include almost $194,000 from CASI and almost $60,000 in other contributions.


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