Commissioners presented new options for animal shelter
Cost of new space could be over $7 million
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.