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New Sutter County animal shelter in limbo
Yuba City mayor worries about 'Taj Mahal'
Visions of a new and larger animal shelter in Sutter County remain on hold, its location and scope uncertain.
Growing numbers of abandoned pets have left the county's existing shelter overcrowded as the county's population has risen. But despite the county's hiring of an architect last year for the project, disagreements with Yuba City over its cost and size remain, with the city skittish about spending too heavily on the shelter in a recession.
"If we're paying for it, we need to be part of the design," Mayor Kash Gill said Thursday. "When we're dealing with cuts and layoffs, we don't want a Taj Mahal built when we can build something not as fancy. Are there alternatives? Can we build it cheaper? Can we build something for both Yuba and Sutter counties?"
In April, the Board of Supervisors narrowly accepted a bid by Swatt/Miers Architects of Emeryville to design a 10,000-square-foot shelter to be built near Sutter County Airport. Construction is estimated to cost $2.5 million and last two years.
However, Yuba City would foot two-thirds of the shelter's price tag, and its leaders have sought more control over the design and budget as a result. Council members agreed to the cost split in March, but have called for looking into cost-saving options, possibly including a smaller building or a different site.
"If you can't afford a big car, you get a small car; if you can't afford a luxury small car, you get a nonluxury small car," said City Manager Steve Jepsen. "We have to ask ourselves, what is the most affordable way to meet current needs and expand to meet future needs?"
Such concerns echoed those aired during the county's vote, when two supervisors opposed the Swatt/Miers plan as too lavish in a time when state budget deficits threaten payouts to local governments.
The new building is expected to relieve crowded conditions at the existing shelter, built in 1982 and now forced to hold four or five dogs in many enclosures designed for one. Sutter County took in 4,434 animals during 2009 at the center at 102 Second St. in Yuba City.
The shelter's outdated construction of porous concrete and wallboard makes thorough cleaning difficult and creates a risk for viral outbreaks among cats and dogs, animal control officials say.
In addition to creating more room and cleaner conditions, a new shelter would help the county meet new requirements, according to Randy Cagle, the county's assistant director of community services.
Sutter County's population is nearing 100,000, a total that would trigger a California mandate for the shelter to spay or neuter all its animals before releasing them. A larger shelter would allow the county to perform the work in-house to meet the requirement rather than depend on outside veterinarians, Cagle said.
"We want to build the facility the way it needs to be built from the beginning," he said. "We don't want to not build a part of it and then add to it later; it won't be cost-effective and it won't meet our goals at the time it's needed."
A committee of officials from the county, Yuba City and Live Oak is reviewing plans for the future animal shelter. Swatt/Miers could release initial plans and artists' renderings as soon as late April with the team's agreement, according to Cagle.
A new local home for abandoned animals already is overdue, according to Yuba City resident Ginger Hunt, who has adopted two dogs from the current shelter.
"I think it's sad that some City Council members don't understand how dire the need is for some of those pets," she said. We need to see the community do this instead of planting palm trees on Plumas Street. I'm sure the trees are comfortable, but what about the animals?"