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Supervisors to decide on $14 million animal shelter replacement

WOODBRIDGE — Is a new $14 million animal shelter in the future for Prince William County taxpayers?

That is what the county’s Board of Supervisors must decide on Tuesday night when they decide which one of four new animals shelters will replace, or improve the existing 45-year-old facility located next to a landfill.

The favored choice is known as Option C, a new $14.2 million facility that would replace the existing structure, and come with complete with an pet adoption lobby, a full veterinarian space, isolation rooms for sick animals, animal control offices, a community room, 156 double-sided kennels for cats, and 56 double-sided kennels for dogs.

“I love it. What’s not to love about it,” asked Occoquan District Supervisor Ruth Anderson.

 Anderson called animal control a “core government service” and added a new shelter is needed in Prince William County. She familiarized herself with the issue while touring similar shelters in Fairfax and Fauquier counties, and a shelter in Fredericksburg.

Must have vs. nice-to-have

But opponents of Option C, including Gainesville District Supervisor Peter Candland, call this plan the “Taj Mahal” of animal shelters. When a new animal shelter was first discussed two years ago, county officials were ready to pay between six and $10 million for a new facility, he said.

That number last year was pushed to $12 million. Today, Candland says the price has skyrocketed due to what he calls “must have” amenities to be included inside the shelter that, despite what consultants told officials, aren’t state or federal requirements.

“If you tell me why $14 million is needed for a new animal shelter, I’ll ‘OK,’ but that hasn’t happened yet,” said Candland.

The Gainesville Supervisor said he’d requested additional information from the county executive about “must have” amenities required by law for the new shelter vs. the “nice-to-have” comforts. He’s not yet received it, he said, and, as it stands, he won’t vote for either of the four options on the table for a new shelter.

As for Anderson, she’s leaning toward the recommended Option C, and added that’s important for the county’s elected leaders to be cognizant of the cash it spends, and to keep in mind other priorities like the 300-400 homeless people who live in the county.

This year, the county budgeted double the amount of cash it would spend on a new a new animal shelter, for its community partners like the BARN, and Good Sheperd Housing transitional housing organizations that help to house transitioning homeless.

“It’s a huge chunk of money, and I just want to make sure that we build the right one,” said Anderson.

Because the county’s animal control officers are so busy, the new shelter would reach capacity by 2020.

More choices 

As for the Board’s’ other choices, the $11.4 million Option A would feature an 18,000 square-foot replacement of the existing building. However, trailers that sit outside of the current building would remain. The new facility wouldn’t be as large and would have 90 double-sided cat kennels, and 40 double-sided dog kennels.

The $13 million Option B would require the construction of a smaller, 17,000 square-foot building, and the renovation of the existing structure. It would have the same number of kennels as Option A.

At $17 million, Option D is ranked the costliest because it involves opening two off-site adoption centers, building a new 22,000 square-foot facility, and renovating the existing one. This new building would include a quarantine and recovery room, expanded staff and visitor parking, and two off-site adoption facilities — presumably in shopping centers in the east and west sides of the county.

The Board of Supervisors will take the issue at its 7:30 p.m. meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 19.

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