Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Budget approved for first phase of new Othello animal shelter

Staff Writer | July 10, 2024 3:15 AM

OTHELLO — A new animal shelter is in the works for the city of Othello. The Othello City Council approved a $340,000 budget for the initial phase of the construction at its regular meeting Monday, after some discussion of options, landscaping, philosophy and cost. 

City Engineer Robin Adolphsen said the original plan was to buy a temporary facility that came with kennels, but the price of that made city officials reexamine that idea.

Othello had a contract for animal control services with Adams County Pet Rescue, with all animals housed at the ACPR facility. In January city officials opted to enter into an agreement with Hands ‘n Paws, Moses Lake.

“We have a temporary kennel set up,” Adolphsen said. “The agreement was that we would put a larger temporary facility together, and Hands ‘n Paws had looked at getting a temporary facility that was all-encompassed and it just would be delivered. And when we actually built that out to the specifications that were required, (the estimated cost was) $250,000. So if we’re going to spend $250,000 on a temporary kennel, we might as well look at what it’s going to take to put in a permanent shelter.”

City officials and Hands ‘n Paws operators discussed options and came up with a preliminary idea for the eventual shelter. The proposal, and the budget, approved by the council will build a first phase, however that looks.

Adolphsen said interested contractors will bid on two options. The first would build a structure with 12 kennels, six of which could be used for isolation, an office and two medical rooms to treat animals. In the first option, that section would be completed, from cement floors to ventilation, and could be expanded. 

The second option would be a structure big enough to accommodate all phases of the project, then finish as much of the inside as the remaining budget would allow, Adolphsen said. The council would decide how they wanted to proceed. 

Adolphsen said the estimated cost for a building that could accommodate the whole buildout was about $250,000. The new shelter will be located on city-owned land west of Broadway Avenue, said Mayor Shawn Logan in a later interview. 

The animal shelter was the subject of some discussion during the public comment period before the vote. Othello resident Ernie Summers said he was an ACPR advisor and a retired veterinarian; he thought the city was duplicating a service that already existed. He asked about financing. 

“I’d kind of like to know exactly where this $340,000 is coming from,” he said.

The negotiations with ACPR involved a much smaller amount, Summers said. He also asked if the city was considering the ongoing costs.

Logan said city officials were required to change some of the original plans for 2024 to accommodate the animal shelter.

“The city has had to cut projects in order to get this done,” Logan said. “There’s a list of projects that now are not going to be done because of this.”

It’s a new experience for the council and city officials as well, he said

“You’re asking all the questions that we’re asking ourselves. Phase One is expensive — is there a Phase Two, a Phase Three? Obviously, there’s going to be some more that’s going to need to be done,” Logan said.

During the public comment period, Othello resident Kim Bailey said city officials should allocate some money for landscaping.

“I just want to remind you what the previous dog pound looked like,” Bailey said. “Cinderblock building on a dirt lot.” 

Council member Mark Snyder asked if the existing temporary shelter was proving to be adequate for the demand. He asked if Othello needed an animal shelter as big as proposed (ultimately 32 kennels) if the temporary shelter was working. Logan said the city agreed to build a permanent shelter of that size. 

Council member John Lallas said he thought the city should clarify its role.

“There seems to be a misinterpretation,” Lallas said. “This is a shelter. It’s not a rescue. We’re taking these animals, putting them in the shelter (and) then shipping them out.” 

Council member Genna Dorow said Hands ‘n Paws ultimately would be responsible for any animals in the shelter. 

“We’re not involved with holding these dogs, saving these dogs, spending money on these dogs — and cats — in any way shape or form,” Lallas said. “There’s another entity involved.”

Logan said Othello residents have been volunteering to provide foster care. 

“You have members of the community that are stepping up because they love animals,” Logan said. 

Hands ‘n Paws will be responsible for veterinary care and adoption services, he said.

“That’s the new age of animal care, whether it’s a rescue shelter or our particular facility,” Logan said. “We’re looking at this humanely. We know we can’t save them all, but we’re going to save everything we can. That’s our philosophy in this process, and that’s (the) Hands ‘n Paws philosophy.” 

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at cschweizer@columbiabasinherald.com.

    Adams County Pet Rescue had provided animal shelter services for Othello for quite a while but increasing operational costs got in the way earlier this year.