Sutter County animal shelter critics happy
Randy Hill Construction of Chico received a notice to proceed Wednesday on a contract to build a new regional animal shelter for Sutter County, Yuba City and Live Oak.
The $5 million project is expected to replace an overcrowded and dilapidated facility on Second Street.
After eight years of heated talks and multiple impasses between the county and Yuba City, much still remains to be done beyond the construction.
Authority for animal services is expected to be transferred to Yuba City — the largest financial stakeholder in the project — after decades of having the service managed by Sutter County.
"The city needs to take the lead. We've already seen what the county can do," said Beckie Jennings, a former grand jury forewoman who helped bring deplorable conditions at the animal shelter to light.
Several former grand jurors who were responsible for the 2010-11 report were at a Yuba City City Council meeting on Tuesday night as the vote was taken to proceed with construction.
The move was made in spite of ongoing, contentious discussions about the transfer of operations from county to city control.
"I expect more drama," Jennings said. "But at least construction won't be held up this time because of it."
The former jurors' work has been cited repeatedly by officials from all three government agencies for having led to progress on the new shelter project, which already had more than six years of negotiation failures behind it.
The report depicted horrific conditions in an unsupervised, unsanitary, rat- and disease-infested building. The report's release led to the commitment of a joint powers authority among the three government agencies last November.
Since then, progress in planning the new shelter — and for operations under new management — has moved along at a steady clip.
The latest spat between the county and city has yet to be fully resolved.
But with Yuba City signing off Tuesday on one of three county-initiated solutions, Jennings and other grand jurors breathed a sigh of relief and have begun cautious celebrations.
"See how far we can come when we focus on the goal and not on each other?" said Karen Hess, one of the most outspoken members of an activist group spearheaded by Jennings.
The group is tasked with keeping the spotlight on politicians and administrators at the heart of shelter proceedings.
Jennings' group, and the grand jury report at the core of it, "kept the lamp burning," Councilman John Buckland said on Tuesday.
Finally, said Councilman John Dukes, "we may actually get this (shelter) built."