Sutter animal shelter board rejects too high bids, will revise design
Sutter Animal Services Authority's board of directors voted Monday to reject bids received for construction of a new animal shelter, revise the design plan and call for a do-over.
The decision, though it will set the process back roughly 90 days and not result in notable cost savings, will allow for the addition of an adoption center to the design plan, members reasoned.
Seven companies submitted bids for the project last month. Each company estimated construction to cost at least $1.1 million higher than the board had planned to spend on the building.
The joint powers authority board had expected the three partnering bodies — Sutter County, Yuba City and Live Oak — to collectively spend less than $4 million to build the shelter. The lowest bid came in at more than $5 million.
Last month, Yuba City Public Works Director George Musallam had been asked to return to Swatt Miers Architects, the project's designers, to determine where the board's calculations went wrong, and then report back.
"There really wasn't a good answer," Musallam told the board on Monday. "What we have is an expensive building. It costs $5 million to build.
"The original estimate was low," he said.
The bidding process is expected to reopen once design modifications have been made and approved by the board.
Talks between the two cities and the county about construction of a new animal shelter began about seven years ago.
A grim depiction of conditions at the existing, badly overcrowded and outdated shelter were rendered by a grand jury report released in the spring of 2011.
The report featured details of sick, stressed and neglected animals that suffered and died in large numbers.
An ad hoc animal shelter committee became the board shortly thereafter.
Improvements to the shelter have been ongoing since late last year, and the group recently installed a county administrator to serve as interim animal services manager, and take over operations at the troubled shelter.
In April, board members and members of city and county staff toured animal shelters in Merced and Sacramento counties. Many now advocate a sea change in the community's approach to caring for lost or unwanted animals.
A proposed move to return design plans to the architect for revisions were aimed partly at lowering costs. By downgrading some building materials and making changes to the size of windows and other aspects of the building's appearance, minor cost savings could be achieved, members concluded.
But the addition of an adoption center — a designated space for people to interact with animals they are considering for adoption — would add roughly $250,000 to the building cost, thus negating much of the savings.
This feature — standard in most new animal shelters — has been recently embraced by most members of the joint powers authority.
But on Monday, the change of focus was still subject to debate.
"Is it really necessary to have an adoption center?" asked Live Oak City Councilwoman Diane Hodges. "I'm just thinking of the dollars."
Her concerns appeared to be outnumbered.
"Either we adopt more animals out or we have more animals that we're euthanizing," said Yuba City City Manager Steve Jepsen.
The change in approach to caring for animals, the board previously argued, will include instituting a large-scale volunteer program to assist with adoptions. This, coupled with revenue receipts from adoptions, and savings from lower boarding and euthanasia costs are part of the dramatic overhaul plan.
"In the long run, it will save us quite a bit of money," said Yuba City Councilman John Dukes.
CONTACT Nancy Pasternack at email@example.com or 749-4781. Find her on Facebook at /ADnpasternack or on Twitter at @ADnpasternack.