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Shelter plans rejected
City council blocks bids
for moving animal facility

By Evan Belanger 340-2442

Plans to relocate the city's animal shelter to Wilson Morgan Park hit a snag Monday.

During a work session, the Decatur City Council discussed rejecting all bids for a project to renovate the Decatur Workshop and Developmental Center at Wilson Morgan for use by the Decatur Animal Services Department.

The City Council approved a measure in April 2006 to spend $1 million renovating the building — with another $200,000 to come from donations — but of two bids received this year, both were about $1 million more than original estimates.

Mayor Don Kyle and Chief Financial Officer Gail Busbey now say the city will look at adjusting the renovation plans to reduce costs.

"It was substantially out of range," Kyle said of the bid amounts. "Coming in double the budget is going to make for a tough negotiation on the redesign."

The city ran into a similar problem when bidding out contracts to build three new fire stations earlier this year. In that case, city officials opted to reduce the square footage of each station to cut costs.

But Kyle said reducing the square footage of the animal shelter will not be an option because the structure is already there.

"We may just end up with some footage that isn't up to the high standard of the rest of the building to make things come out right," he said.

In the meantime, the shelter will remain at its current location, next to the train tracks at the municipal complex near Central Parkway and 14th Street Southwest.

That location leaves much to be desired for the effectiveness of the program, says Mindy Gilbert, director of the city's animal services department.

"This building was not designed to do what it's doing," she said. "It does not have the appropriate air exchange or drainage, so we have to deal with a lot of environmental issues that are not appropriate to housing animals."

In addition, Gilbert said the current location is too far out of the way to facilitate effective animal adoption services, and that the new facility off Beltline Road will be much more accessible to the public.

Plans for the new facility call for several improvements over the current model, including improved conditions for the animals, better ventilation and drainage and a public education room.

Kyle said he did not know exactly how the design will be changed or when. Gilbert said the renovations will likely take about a year once the project is contracted, but there is no set timeline for contacting or completing the work.

"The intention is to have a facility that the city can be proud of and that will be very user friendly," she said. "People have a perception now of going to visit 'the pound' down by the railroad tracks."

The Decatur Animal Services Department is charged with enforcing the city's animal ordinance and maintaining the animal shelter.

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