Com­mis­sion­ers pre­sented new op­tions for an­i­mal shel­ter

Cost of new space could be over $7 mil­lion

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­news.com

Last year, the Calvert County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers and its cit­i­zens de­cided they were go­ing to split off in an­other di­rec­tion for their part in the Tri-County An­i­mal Shel­ter.

Charles com­mit­ted just un­der $1 mil­lion of its op­er­at­ing bud­get to the an­i­mal shel­ter, but af­ter Calvert made its deci- sion to break off and op­er­ate its own shel­ter, the Charles com­mis­sion­ers au­tho­rized a fea­si­bil­ity study cost­ing $50,000 to find out what it would cost to have a bi-county an­i­mal shel­ter be­tween Charles and St. Mary’s coun­ties, or just an in­de­pen­dent Charles County shel­ter.

Those re­sults were re­vealed Tues­day by rep­re­sen­ta­tives from De­signed Learned, Inc., FMD ar­chi­tects and Mar­rick Prop­er­ties, com­pa­nies the county chose to con­sult with for the study.

Mark Moore, a prin­ci­pal for FMD ar­chi­tects, said the de­ci­sion for the county ul­ti­mately comes down to a few op­tions.

“We were hired to dis­cuss Charles County, St. Mary’s County, whether they’d do a sep­a­rate fa­cil­ity or both. And also look at ways whether we’d do a new fa­cil­ity, ren­o­vate a new one or ren­o­vate the cur­rent fa­cil­ity,” Moore said.

The best op­tion for the county, Moore said, is to cre­ate a new fa­cil­ity that can fully meet the needs the county re­quires for any new shel­ter. Find­ing a va­cant build­ing would be an­other op­tion, but the costs of ren­o­va­tion and cus­tomiza­tion of that build­ing will likely add up to the same amount it would take to fi­nance a new build­ing com­pletely, he said.

New con­struc­tion would al­low the county — or coun­ties, if St. Mary’s is in­cluded — to find a new, cen­tral lo­ca­tion for the fa­cil­ity and make sure that rooms for the an­i­mals in the fa­cil­ity “flow,” and an­i­mals can be sep­a­rated by type and size. An­other fac­tor, Moore said, is to make the fa­cil­ity more vis­i­ble to the pub­lic and act as more of an an­i­mal cen­ter rather than a shel­ter.

“New fa­cil­i­ties would fo­cus on more durable fin­ishes through­out on the floor­ing and walls,” he said. “We re­ally want to fo­cus on the noise. We want to cre­ate a stress­free en­vi­ron­ment for the an­i­mals.”

Scott Learned, a prin­ci­pal for De­signed Learned Inc., said the ini­tial de­signs of the fa­cil­ity were made with keep­ing the an­i­mals safe, con­trol­ling sound and pre­vent­ing eu-

thana­sia in mind.

That is done by re­duc- ing stress on the an­i­mals. De­signs and de­sign ma- teri­als are key fac­tors in that, Learned said. They plan on group­ing an­i­mals to­gether, he said, to con­cen­trate the sounds and smells of dif­fer­ent an­i­mals rather than keep­ing them in closer, com­pact ar­eas.

“By keep­ing them in smaller groups, we can cre­ate fa­cil­i­ties that are ex­tremely pos­i­tive for the staff, the an­i­mals and the pub­lic,” Learned said. “There’s a lot that goes into it. We re­ally try to de­sign build­ings that have a 30, 40, 50 year life­span.”

Moore said the cost of ren­o­vat­ing and ex­pand­ing the tri-county fa­cil­ity cur­rently would cost the county $7.2 mil­lion, if it were to move for­ward on its own. For a new fa­cil­ity, the county would spend just un­der $7.4 mil­lion. To ren­o­vate an­other build­ing, he said, the county would spend $6.2 mil­lion.

The big­gest is­sue, Moore said, is that if they do ren­o­va­tions, the fa­cil­ity can­not op­er­ate at full ca­pac­ity while they are mak­ing those im­prove­ments, which could leave an­i­mals vul­ner­a­ble.

“There­fore we’re say­ing that is ba­si­cally ruled out,” he said.

County Com­mis­sion­ers’ Pres­i­dent Peter Mur­phy (D) also noted the lo­ca­tion of the cur­rent fa­cil­ity is not ideal for the county. Whether they choose to ren­o­vate an­other build­ing or build up a new one, he said, the struc­ture needs to be vis­i­ble.

“You would think that if you’re go­ing to do some­thing like this, you’d want to put it in a place that would be more ac­ces­si­ble,” Mur­phy said.

Com­mis­sioner Ken Robin­son (D) said the pre­sen­ta­tion and de­sign were “com­pre­hen­sive” and well done on the part of the staff and com­pa­nies in­volved. There were many fea­si­ble so­lu­tions pro­vided to the county, he said.

The big­gest ques­tion, he said, is whether St. Mary’s County will be on board with the con­struc­tion of a joint fa­cil­ity. If they are, ac­cord­ing to Moore, build­ing a new fa­cil­ity could cost $8.4 mil­lion for both coun­ties to­gether. Ren­o­va­tion of an ex­ist­ing lo­ca­tion, Moore said, would cost $6.7 mil­lion.

But the fa­cil­i­ties may be worth it, Robin­son said. Turn­ing the fa­cil­ity into an “an­i­mal cen­ter” could lead to more adop­tions, and it would also give the coun­ties a chance to up­date their de­signs ac­cord­ing to new mod­ern in­for­ma­tion on an­i­mal care.

As of now, Robin­son said, it seems like St. Mary’s County is lean­ing to­ward go­ing in its own di­rec­tion. But things could change in the fu­ture, he said, not­ing that this is a good di­rec­tion re­gard­less.

“I think this is a good start­ing point, al­beit a very ex­pen­sive one,” Robin­son said.

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