Sutter County animal shelter hits roadblock over cost
Plans for a new multimillion dollar animal shelter that could save dogs and cats from death, disease and "deplorable" conditions stalled on Monday.
Balking over costs, politicians from Yuba City, Live Oak and Sutter County — acting board members for the newly minted Sutter Animal Service Authority — kicked the $5.1 million plan back to staff for re-evaluation rather than take the next step toward construction.
The new animal shelter was expected to cost roughly $4.5 million. But a recent estimate exceeded the target at $5.1 million. Cities and counties are tight on money, which makes footing the bill for a new shelter and additional staffing "a big issue," said Steve Jepsen, Yuba City's city manager.
Cheryl Bohannan, Sutter County's supervising animal control officer, urged the board to act.
"We need a new animal facility. We have to get out of the place we're at," said Bohannan, who pushed the board to put the project out to bid.
The board also balked at creating a volunteer corps that would eventually replace workers from the county jail, something Citygate Management Review strongly recommended in its 2007 report. The recommendation was reiterated by the Sutter County Grand Jury last April.
"We need it. It's needed really badly," said Sutter County Supervisor Stan Cleveland. "I know a lot of people who are crazy about animals, and they'd love to help out. They're frustrated they can't."
A new shelter and volunteer program are responses to the grand jury, which blasted the shelter in a scathing report last April. Too many animals died in shelter kennels, workers exposed dogs and cats to disease by not properly cleaning the shelter and management failed to implement proper policies, according to the report.
The two cities and Sutter County have worked to make the project cheaper for 41⁄2 years since Citygate issued its report and pushed for a new shelter.
"It'd be nice to do it all," echoed John Dukes, authority board member and Yuba City City Council member. "We need to look at what we can do now, and what we can do down the road."
The two cities and Sutter County had agreed previously to split the bill for building and staffing a new shelter. Under that agreement, Yuba City pays 66 percent, the county 25 percent and Live Oak 9 percent.
Board members sent construction plans back to staff members, asking them to recommend whether or not to include a list of design options that, if adopted, would shave $164,400 off the project.
One of them is nixing a $48,000 sprinkler system, which is not required by law, Jepsen said.
"It's the animals that are at risk," he continued. "If something happens, you leave yourself vulnerable to criticism."
The board plans to evaluate construction plans again at their next meeting on Jan. 30.
Officials predict they'll start construction by June and finish a year later.
CONTACT reporter Jonathan Edwards at email@example.com or 749-4780. Find him on Facebook at /ADjedwards or on Twitter at @ADjedwards. The Associated Press contributed to this report.