Yuba City's animal shelter costs defended
Complaints about a new regional animal shelter's $5 million price tag were as inevitable as last week's autumn rain.
But the building's designers and construction superintendent say the project's costs are in line with those of similar size in California today.
Special building codes, new attitudes about humane animal care, and the cost of materials all contribute to what, for many, seems like an exorbitant amount to spend on the community's stray and unwanted animals.
In addition, the business of maintaining a safe and sanitary space for the animals and workers who care for them is just plain expensive, said Jeff Click of Randy Hill Construction.
"It's not like a Sam's Club-type building. It's not a warehouse," he said.
Click is the project superintendent at the site on Garden Highway, where workers in recent days have been in a hurry to lay the building's foundation before the winter weather sets in.
An animal shelter, "is like a hospital in a lot of ways," said Jeff Wheeler, senior associate at George Miers & Associates, an Emeryville firm that specializes in designing animal-care facilities.
The final plan for the new Garden Highway facility — scaled back early this year after bids came in $1.1 million over budget — includes an elaborate maze of floor drains and drainage trenches and mechanisms to flush waste from the site.
"These facilities are driven by plumbing," Wheeler said of today's new animal care facilities.
The image that comes to the minds of those who have never visited a modern facility is of a dog "pound," he said. "A cold, destitute place with just cages and cages."
But a set of state animal welfare laws passed in 1999, and the research behind them, sparked changes to the ways in which facilities that house them are designed.
The new 12,300 square-foot regional she ter will replace a building on Second Street constructed in the 1980s that would never pass muster by today's standards.
"These are sophisticated projects," Wheeler said of today's new shelters, not only in California, but across the nation. "They have a huge community aspect to them."
Standard plans include areas where people can interact with adoptable animals, a surgical room where animals can be spayed and neutered and a dedicated area where they can be humanely euthanized.
While laws governing animal stewardship have become more strict, so too have the state's codes for earthquake resistance and fire. And insurance costs for such work are at an all-time high.
"It's just so expensive to do anything nowadays," Click said. "Even the cost of concrete has gone up."
A rush of development in China has driven the cost for materials sky high in the last few years, and events such as Monday's storm on the East Coast affect the availability — and therefore the price — of acquiring fuel and building materials locally.
Click said costs for basic shelter utilities, plumbing and infrastructure at the 6-acre site include those for future building expansions.
Subcontractors are preparing to excavate the site to anchor the foundation's footings.
A recent dust-up over the governing agreement for the shelter set the project schedule back and caused plans to change at the site.
An access road that had been set to start work six weeks ago now will be postponed until the end of the project, Click said.
"It was frustrating to have six weeks of good weather go by," he said.
Managing to get workers and equipment back to the site after the delay had been a small miracle. Many had taken work elsewhere and moved machinery to other construction projects.
But that is water under the bridge now, Click said.
"I don't think they've made anything ornate or elaborate," he said of the design. "But it's going to be a friendly place for people to come and adopt animals, and it will look nice."
CONTACT Nancy Pasternack at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-4781. Find her on Facebook at /ADnpasternack or on Twitter at @ADnpasternack.