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County animal shelter on hold

Plans are now on hold for a new animal shelter in Garfield County. Monday the county commissioners agreed to table the idea although they’d budgeted $2 million for its construction in 2006.Sheriff Lou Vallario suggested a postponement. He said the plan was “spinning out of control” because of higher than anticipated costs and “the high emotion” among committee members over potential shelter policies.Vallario said a design-build firm, Animal Arts of Boulder, hired to determine what size of shelter would be needed, came up with a $3.7 million price tag.Although the county has said it will donate the land and fund construction, the towns of western Garfield County would have to contribute to its annual operation costs, Vallario said. The 13,000-square-foot building would cost about $500,000 a year to run, he said.”My big concern right away was we spent half that on a new human services building (in Rifle),” Vallario said. Municipalities “couldn’t afford half a million a year.”The shelter was designed to accommodate population growth in the county over the next 10 to 20 years, Vallario said, and could handle 1,100 dogs and 400 cats a year. But that is the “ideal facility,” he said. “I think $3.7 million is probably more than we want to invest.”What the county needs to do is drop back and regroup and come up with a building that can serve the needs of the county for an affordable cost, he said.Postponing construction of the shelter would give the county the option to fund another project such as housing for community corrections prisoners who are now crowding into the county jail, said county manager Ed Green. However, Vallario urged the commissioners to revisit the shelter in the spring. “We don’t want anyone to think we’re killing it,” he said.Vallario also said the 10-member committee formed to study the shelter was becoming very emotional over whether or not the shelter would kill problem animals. Some argued for a no-kill shelter that would find places to care for problem dogs.”Someone needs to draw the line (with that policy),” Vallario said. “We need to make a hard decision … and realize euthanasia must be part (of the program). This is a very emotionally charged issue.”Colorado Animal Rescue in Glenwood Springs came under fire recently for a dog rescued from New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which bit director Leslie Rockey. CARE has said it cannot release the dog for adoption but would try to find a place for it and would put it down only as a last resort.CARE has also agreed to take dogs from the new county shelter that are not reclaimed by their owners, Vallario said. He has pushed for the shelter in the western portion of the county because 70 percent of the stray dogs picked up and housed at CARE are from there. A new shelter would take some of the burden for stray animals off CARE. It would also cut down on driving time for county animal control officers transporting the dogs from the western reaches of the county to the Glenwood Springs shelter.Also at issue was a possible location for the shelter. Initially, the county offered land around the airport near Rifle. But many on the committee objected to that relatively remote location. Land is also available just east of Rifle on the site of the former Union Carbide uranium mill. The city of Rifle said it would cost about $1 million to bring utilities to the site, a cost the county did not want to shoulder. Now, Vallario said, the city is thinking about relocating its municipal operations center to the site and would therefore extend utilities, which could work out well for the county.Vallario said the committee agreed that was the best location for a shelter.County Commissioner Larry McCown said he supported the idea of re-examining plans for the shelter.”I definitely have some concerns on my part. We’re moving a little too fast on a building of this size,” he said.”We’ve got to be realistic about the shelter and not go on emotion,” said Commissioner John Martin.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. 510dgray@postindependent.com


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