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Mustang city council gets sticker shock from animal shelter proposed cost

By Chris Eversole

Mustang City Council members expressed surprise Tuesday about an increase in the budget for upgrading the city’s animal shelter.

In the year that city staff has been working on the project, the estimated cost has grown from the original $250,000.

Now, the cost for the building’s shell is estimated at $421,000, and the completed projected could cost as much as $1.3 million, Assistant City Manager Justin Battles said during a special meeting.

“I don’t really think we need to spend that much for a dog pound,” Councilman Darrell Noblitt said.

Battles explained that staff originally had hoped to make improvements to the existing shelter, which is too small to meet the needs of the growing city.

In working with the city’s architect, staff realized that the current building needed to be replaced and developed a 5,560-square-foot footprint, Battles said.

One reason to start from scratch is that lines to the city’s sewer plant run next to the shelter and working around them would be difficult.

It was important to build a structure that the city wouldn’t outgrow quickly, he added.

Police Chief Robert Groseclose noted that the plans will include a quarantine area so sick animals won’t contaminate others.

Council members asked if the city could save money by contracting with other cities or with a private company for shelter services.

The city has explored outsourcing in 2012 and determined the cost was unreasonable, Mayor Jess Schweinberg noted.

Battles praised the work of animal services, which works with the Friends of Mustang Animal Shelter to run a no-kill shelter.

The Friends group extends the capacity for strays and abandoned dogs and cats with its pet fostering program.

Councilman Travis McKenzie said he was surprised that the shelter did not euthanize dogs and cats.

Noblitt cautioned against discussing euthanization, a sore subject with animal advocates.

“Enjoy your one term,” Noblitt said.

The shelter was on the agenda because Battles is proposing hiring a construction manager for the project, which would be a departure from the city’s practice of bidding projects.

A construction manager would guarantee the cost – assuming the risk if costs ran high and receiving an incentive if it came in under budget.

“Hopefully, a construction manager will help save money, but a shelter involves a large amount of concrete, and there’s a certain cost of doing business to provide a competent shelter that meets our needs,” Groseclose said.

Funding for the shelter would come from the voter-approved one-cent sales tax.

Up to $300,000 could be available from the savings on the upgrade to the sewer plant, and increases in sales tax revenue as the city grows could provide addition funds, Battles said.

In other matters:

  • Council members learned that staff has taken down a sign at soccer fields stating that firearms were prohibited.

Noblitt said that the signs made the fields a “soft target” and that the city’s policy of allowing people with concealed-weapons permits was important for safety.

  • City Manager Timothy Rooney explained his plan to clarify the ordinance fireworks sales – eliminating sales by groups that don’t have long standing ties to the community.

Rooney also plans to propose an increase the fee for fireworks sales permits from its current $15, which doesn’t cover the extensive staff cost of processing them.

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