City approves land for new animal shelter

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The Hollister City Council on Monday approved buying the land
and hiring an architect for a new animal shelter, which will dwarf
the overpopulated building that neighbors the sewer ponds.
The Hollister City Council on Monday approved buying the land and hiring an architect for a new animal shelter, which will dwarf the overpopulated building that neighbors the sewer ponds.

A high-priority for several years, the new animal shelter will be located on a 2.7 acre plot adjacent to the Hollister Police Department.

The site, on the north side of town near the airport, coincides with the Animal Control Division’s recent move into the Police Department’s jurisdiction.

The city is spending $615,000 on the land and another $150,000 on the design work. When the project is finished – expected by the end of this year – the total cost should reach about $2.2 million, according to City Manager Dale Shaddox.

Aside from money spent purchasing the land, all other funding will likely come from the Redevelopment Agency – it recently issued $35 million in bonds.

Officials say a new shelter is long overdue. Animal populations at the current structure – built in 1982 – escalated as the city’s human population grew over the past 20 years.

And with recent changes in state law, shelters have been required to keep animals for longer periods of time before putting them to sleep.

“I’m just tickled pink about it,” said Julie Carreiro, animal control supervisor at the shelter.

One major concern in recent years, she said, has been the possibility of disease spread – not only among animals, but also to workers and visiting residents, too.

Plus, it’s just too small, and the ventilation system is poor, she said.

The shelter was built to accommodate 1,500 animals and one staff member. Last year, they handled a record 4,053 animals, according to a staff report. And there are four permanent full-time staff members, along with two temporary full-time workers, Carreiro said.

The overpopulation, coupled with its location next to the industrial wastewater treatment plant, compelled City Manager Dale Shaddox to call the conditions “just horrible.”

Discouraged by his first impression of the battered shelter, Shaddox subsequently got even more bad news when the budget crunch began last year.

Initially, the new shelter’s funding was to come primarily from the General Fund. But that hope was lost when Shaddox discovered debts owed to Hollister and a General Fund rapidly dwindling toward zero.

But the plan to switch the Animal Control Division into a public safety department – from the Management Services Department – allows the city to use RDA funding, Shaddox said.

“That’s how we were able to salvage the project,” he said.

The precise size of the new shelter has not been determined. But preliminary discussions with the architect – Salinas-based Wald Ruhnke & Dost LLP – project the building at about 10,000 square feet, according to RDA Director Bill Avera. That would be about seven times the current shelter’s size.

“If you’ve been to our animal shelter, you’d know how badly it’s needed,” Councilman Tony LoBue said.

In other business:

– The Council approved hiring six paid call firefighters. That increases the paid call staff from 19 to 25 members.

“We probably couldn’t do it without them,” said Fire Chief Bill Garringer.

Garringer said on average 4.5 paid call firefighters respond to each fire. And they are most available for weekend emergencies.

He also reiterated a city ordinance that requires new hires to the permanent Fire Department staff to come from the paid call ranks.

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