Calvert moves for­ward with new an­i­mal shel­ter

St. Mary’s may fol­low, leav­ing Charles sole sup­porter of over­whelmed Tri-County

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By TA­MARA WARD tward@somd­news.com and MICHAEL SYKES msykes@somd­news.com

Im­por­tant de­ci­sions re­gard­ing the Charles County an­i­mal shel­ter are com­ing fast.

With the Calvert County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers fully com­mit­ting them­selves to build­ing a new an­i­mal shel­ter for just their ju­ris­dic­tion and St. Mary’s County lean­ing to­ward do­ing the same, Charles County finds it­self in the spot­light.

Charles County has $50,000 com­mit­ted in its bud­get for a fea­si­bil­ity study for an in­de­pen­dent shel­ter, but there has been no guar­an­tee of a new shel­ter for the county.

Charles County Com­mis­sion­ers’ Pres­i­dent Peter Mur­phy (D) said St. Mary’s County has al­lo­cated money in its bud­get for a fea­si­bil­ity study for a shel­ter as well.

Both coun­ties are look­ing at their op­tions right now, Mur­phy said.

“We have a cou­ple of dif­fer­ent op­tions. One is, do we part­ner to­gether to re­model the cur­rent fa­cil­ity, do we part­ner to­gether to build a new fa­cil­ity or do we go our sep­a­rate ways,” Mur­phy said. “If that were to hap­pen, then of course we’d have to make the de­ci­sion in­de­pen­dently if we would stay where we are but re­model or build a new fa­cil­ity.”

Both county’s pro­cesses are run­ning par­al­lel, so a joint de­ci­sion is in play for the an­i­mal shel­ter one way or an­other Mur­phy said.

Mur­phy said he does not know what de­ci­sion he would lean to­ward at this point, but said the county still re­mains com­mit­ted to im­prov­ing the Tri-County An­i­mal Shel­ter in the mean­time.

While Mur­phy said he does not know what ac­tion is the right ac­tion to take at this point, Com­mis­sioner Ken Robin­son (D) said he is fully com­mit­ted to mov­ing for­ward with a new, in­de­pen­dent shel­ter.

“I al­ways thought, early on, that the pop­u­la­tion in­crease over the last 50 years has really made the Tri-County An­i­mal Shel­ter ob­so­lete,” Robin­son said. “All three ju­ris­dic­tions should be run­ning

their own shel­ter.”

And Calvert County will do just that. The Calvert County shel­ter will be between 8,000 and 14,000 square feet and em­ploy up to 10 full-time po­si­tions, in­clud­ing a vol­un­teer co­or­di­na­tor and man­ager, the re­lease states. The new fa­cil­ity will also house the Calvert County An­i­mal Con­trol of­fi­cers who re­port to the sher­iff’s of­fice.

Mar­rick Prop­er­ties will lease the new fa­cil­ity to the county, with an op­tion for pur­chase at a later date. Cost pro­jec­tions do not im­pact the fis­cal 2017 bud­get, and the shel­ter is ex­pected to be in ser vice dur­ing fis­cal 2018.

Calvert mov­ing on from the Tri-County An­i­mal Shel­ter is “no sur­prise,” Robin­son said. Calvert of­fi­cials alerted both Charles and St. Mary’s coun­ties this move was likely com­ing “a while ago,” he said.

“I ap­plaud them for mov­ing for­ward,” Robin­son said. “I think it is really prob­a­bly the im­pe­tus we needed to jump start the creation of our own Charles County only shel­ter.”

Mur­phy said the county has not had solid con­ver­sa­tions about when the build out on its own an­i­mal shel­ter would start or how it would be paid for. He an­tic­i­pates, he said, Charles County will re­main com­mit­ted to keep­ing the shel­ter up and run­ning un­til fis­cal year 2017.

Charles County com­mit­ted four new at­ten­dant po­si­tions in its freshly ap­proved bud­get for the shel­ter. The com­mis­sion­ers com­mit­ted just more than $950,000 to the an­i­mal shel­ter in their op­er­at­ing bud­get.

Robin­son said the shel­ter still needs to be main­tained and all three coun­ties should be com­mit­ted to mak­ing im­prove­ments un­til new fa­cil­i­ties are ready to be launched.

A new Charles County fa­cil­ity would not launch un­til, at least, Robin­son said, two years down the road.

But Calvert County of­fi­cials have said they de­cided to break from their cur­rent Tri-County An­i­mal Shel­ter fund­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion with Charles and St. Mary’s coun­ties, as im­prove­ments to staffing and ren­o­va­tions are needed at the ex­ist­ing Hugh­esville shel­ter.

The de­ci­sion comes af­ter sev­eral meet­ings with re­gional lead­er­ship and project plan­ners re­vealed an up­grade and ex­pan­sion of the cur­rent fa­cil­ity would re­quire Calvert to fund 25 per­cent at about $200,000 an­nu­ally to the Hugh­esville shel­ter’s op­er­a­tions.

De­spite the me­dia an­nounce­ment Tues­day, many of the de­tails on the new pub­lic-pri­vate ven­ture to give Calvert County its own an­i­mal shel­ter are still un­known.

The ex­act square footage, op­er­at­ing ex­pense, fa­cil­ity de­sign and fa­cil­ity man­age­ment are all un­known. Calvert Com­mis­sion­ers’ Pres­i­dent Evan Slaugh­en­houpt (R) ac­knowl­edged dur­ing the Tues­day press con­fer­ence that many of the de­tails re­gard­ing the county’s first an­i­mal shel­ter and adop­tion cen­ter are yet to be de­ter­mined.

“Given [that] we are still work­ing on de­tails, some of the an­swers may be to be de­cided or we’re work­ing on it,” said Slaugh­en­houpt. “Be as­sured we will be keep­ing the com­mu­nity in­volved as we move for­ward.”

What is known is the ex­act lo­ca­tion — 5055 Hal­low­ing Point Road in Prince Fred­er­ick. The fenced-in va­cant lot sits nearly half the length of a football field off Route 231. Its perime­ter is lined by ma­ture trees and is oc­cu­pied by a half-dozen or so por­ta­ble toi­lets.

Michelle Quigley, a Charles County vet­eri­nar­ian, said she is not im­pressed by Calvert County mov­ing into a new fa­cil­ity. That will not change the poli­cies the cur­rent an­i­mal shel­ter is op­er­at­ing un­der, she said, and if their poli­cies are not pro­gres­sive in the new shel­ter it will not mat­ter what build­ing they’re in.

“I don’t think it’s nec­es­sar­ily the an­swer to the is­sues at Tri-County, but I think there’s a pos­si­bil­ity the coun­ties re­form the shel­ters and they do it cor­rectly, then they can make bet­ter shel­ters,” Quigley said. “It all de­pends on how they run the shel­ters. If they run them the ex­act same way, then they’ll have the ex­act same thing.”

There needs to be foster pro­grams and no-kill pro­to­cols in each of the shel­ters should the coun­ties all choose to move their sep­a­rate ways, Quigley said, just like there should have been at the tri-county shel­ter. The staffing num­bers also need to be ap­pro­pri­ate with vet­eri­nar­i­ans in­cluded.

It’s more about pol­icy than how new the build­ing is, Quigley said. “It’s about how they run them,” she said. “If they have a new build­ing and they eu­th­a­nize them left and right, that wouldn’t change any­thing.”

Ac­cord­ing to a press re­lease from the Calvert County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers, the shel­ter will save all healthy and treat­able an­i­mals, even when the shel­ter is full, and only ter­mi­nally ill an­i­mals or those con­sid­ered dan­ger­ous to pub­lic safety will be eu­th­a­nized. Staff will be re­quired to work with vet­eri­nar­i­ans to make this de­ter­mi­na­tion.

Quigley said she has not heard any­thing con­crete as far as pol­icy from any county of­fi­cials in Calvert. But she does hope they fi­nally move to im­ple­ment­ing no-kill poli­cies and make sure an­i­mals can find homes.

Robin­son said if Charles County moves for­ward with its own shel­ter, they would have “pro­gres­sive poli­cies” in place for the an­i­mals and no-kill would be a pri­or­ity.

Quigley said she hopes that is true.

“Every­body wants to do these new things, but you’re go­ing to have to run it the right way,” Quigley said. “Tri-County would have been fine if they just made those changes, but every­body likes new build­ings.”

STAFF PHOTO BY TA­MARA WARD

5055 Hal­low­ing Point Road in Prince Fred­er­ick, fu­ture home of Calvert County’s first an­i­mal shel­ter and adop­tion cen­ter. Cur­rently, it’s a con­trac­tor stor­age yard for por­ta­ble toi­lets.

STAFF PHOTO BY TA­MARA WARD

The Calvert County com­mis­sion­ers stand with Rick Bai­ley of Mar­rick Prop­er­ties on Tues­day at a press con­fer­ence an­nounc­ing the pub­licpri­vate part­ner­ship for a Calvert County an­i­mal shel­ter. From left are Com­mis­sioner Steve Weems, Com­mis­sion­ers’ Vice Pres­i­dent Tom Hejl, Com­mis­sion­ers’ Pres­i­dent Evan Slaugh­en­houpt, Bai­ley and com­mis­sion­ers Pat Nut­ter and Mike Hart.

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