Placer County funding for new North Auburn animal shelter now up to $16.5 million

Efforts underway to drop construction, operational costs while keeping commitment
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Placer County’s nest-egg to fund a new $23.6 million animal shelter in North Auburn is growing.

In a move that was first revealed publicly in a report to the county Board of Supervisors on recommended building project priorities, the recently formed Infrastructure Investment Committee listed the animal shelter as one of 17 “priority projects” that are partially funded or unfunded. And the report indicates that available funding has increased over the past two months from $8.5 million to $16.5 million.

Other projects on the list include $49.1 million in Kings Beach commercial core improvements, a $10 million upgrade of the Placer County Government Center’s water system in North Auburn and completion of the long-delayed North Fork American River Trail. The trail has $2 million in funding and still requires $517,000.

On Feb. 5, a Facility Services Department report to the Board of Supervisors on animal shelter planning stated that the total project cost would be $23.6 million and that there was $8,458,669 in the county capital projects fund animal shelter account.

At the time, the report from Deputy Director Joel Swift said that the balance of the project funding was currently under consideration by the Infrastructure Investment Committee.

Plans call for a 35,000-square-foot facility on county owned property in North Auburn's Placer Government Center off Richardson Drive. The current 9,200-square-foot shelter, which is across the street from the site and would be torn down, has room for 50 dogs and 80 cats. Early plans call for the new shelter to have room for 68 dogs, 92 cats, plus exotic and large animals.

Graham Knaus, county finance and budget operations manager, presented a report April 9 which indicated the amount of funding for the animal shelter had nearly doubled since early February. According to the Infrastructure Investment Committee report, the amount of funding available is now $16.5 million - just short of an $8 million increase over February’s reported available funding.

The report said that the remaining funding could be coming from the 2012-13 final budget and the 2013-14 budget for capital projects.

The project is currently in the design-build, request-for-proposal process, with a contract to design and build anticipated to be signed in October.

This month’s indication that funding is continuing to grow could also be seen as a signal that the county is resolved to complete a project that has been considered, and in the case of the Placer County grand jury as far back as 2000, demanded. The current facility was built in the early 1970s and the grand jury has been saying since then that it has outlived its useful life.

Efforts to team with Roseville on a facility in that area to serve growing South Placer were discontinued after five years in 2011, leaving the county to move forward on a new shelter at the Placer Government Center in North Auburn. In late 2011, staff were estimating a $12 million cost, until the new estimate was presented to the board in February, and came under questioning for its cost - both for construction and operationally after it opens. 

As he explained to the board at that time, Facility Services Department Deputy Director Joel Swift said this past week that staff is working to tighten up costs that could go lower than $23.6 million.

“Clear concerns have been expressed about costs and staff is working on that by performing value engineering to get to a better idea of cost,” Swift said.

Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery, who expressed concerns over both short-term and long-term costs on the new animal shelter, reiterated her support for the project and the inclusion of more future funding to complete the work.

Montgomery said that her understanding is that the $16.5 million now currently available comes from setting aside discretionary revenues over the last several years to fund infrastructure projects and it’s consistent with the board-approved Capital Facilities Financing Plan.

“This is part of the county’s long-term planning for infrastructure needs much like what has been done for other facilities – the South Placer Adult Correctional Facility, the Community Development/Resources building in North Auburn and others,” Montgomery said.

Montgomery added that, if needed, the remaining $7 million could be covered by budget year contribution to Capital Projects ($3.5 million) in addition to the $3.5 million requested for FY 2013-14 as approved under the Capital Facilities Financing Plan.

Montgomery had also expressed concerns about operational costs once the building was occupied but stated this past week that the county believes existing staffing levels with augmentation by volunteers and probationary community service workers should meet the needs of the new facility. At the February meeting, Animal Services staff could provide no breakdown on actual future costs.

“The county believes that staff costs will be essentially the same as they are now since the facility will require similar numbers of staff because of the more efficient design,” Montgomery said.