The balancing act: Animals rule

By From page A4 | August 11, 2014

Most El Dorado County residents know that our county’s “make shift” animal shelter needs to be replaced. It has been an issue for at least eight years. The Placerville Drive facility was much too small and ill equipped to do the job, but its dedicated staff made do anyway.

Needing replacement because of the limited space and facilities and the fact that the shelter would soon lose its special use permit, the county had a severe problem, a problem that the county had been trying to remedy for about nine years. Knowing a replacement shelter was desperately needed for our animal rich county, the county had been working on a replacement. Originally it was decided an entirely new state-of-the-art shelter would be built on 10 acres in El Dorado on what was known as the Shinn Ranch property which the county acquired.

But something happened along the way. What was originally projected to be a perhaps $7 million project mushroomed to a more than $12 million major thorn for the county. EDC CAO Terri Daly in the spring of 2012 came to the Board of Supervisors and as per a story in the Mountain Democrat dated April 20, 2012, Daly did a “mea culpa,” saying she deserved a grade of a “well-deserved F” in her performance on the new animal shelter and “the many stumbles we’ve had over the past seven years.” It wasn’t all Daly’s fault as she had only been CAO for about two years up to this point. But it was the proverbial mole hill that had become a mountain. Daly recognized the animal shelter needed a new direction; Shinn Ranch was not going work.

Fortunately, the county had some very adept people on staff in Facilities. Russ Frackrell, the county’s facility manager, and Brent Collins, a newly hired senior project manager, charted a new path. Instead of building a new structure on undeveloped land with the issues of the Shinn Ranch property which required nearly $1.4 million in offsite improvements, they searched for an existing developed property with a shell structure. After looking at several, Facilities found a well-built 21,000-square-foot building on about 4.27 acres with more than 21,000 square feet of interior space plus some additional adjacent land of another acre and a half for a very reasonable price. No $900 toilet seats or $1,200 hammers here.

The total price was a bit less than $1.86 million. Facilities budgeted about $2.35 million for the interior improvements and thanks to local contractor D.G. Granade, who won the low bid, Facilities was almost $400,000 under budget. While building from scratch may seem easier and less expensive, the only significant remediation was redesigning and rebuilding for drainage and plumbing about half of the concrete floor, which only added about $90,000 to the entire job. But because of the saving on the building purchase and other items, the county is still money ahead.

Other costs like design fees, exterior improvements and equipment and other ancillary issues and costs will still allow the county to bring in the entire facility at more than $100,000 under the $5.7 million budget and on schedule for the Sept. 29 opening.

It will be a state-of the art animal shelter that this county can be proud of for decades. Senior Project Manager Brent Collins, who has decades of experience in the private sector on structures like these along with Dan Evans, the project manager who only came on board from the private sector about the time actual construction commenced, have made sure that this project came in with the high quality contracted for, on budget and on time.

Some of the design features include dozens of Sun Tunnels which are Solar Tubes, only on a much larger scale. When walking into an interior room without windows, the lighting is bright enough to think there are dozens of fluorescent tubes on, but to your surprise, it is just sunlight. LED lighting dominates the artificial lighting.

PAWED, a local non-profit animal welfare organization, has and will contribute extensively to this project with a large, quality horse barn for which an area has been specially graded. There will be outside patio space plus plenty of outdoor and indoor getting-to-know-your-new buddy spaces and rooms. It will be one of the finest if not the finest facility of its kind in the state at a cost of half or less than other newer facilities. Even if you don’t desire a new friend, when it opens you will be impressed and proud of this new county facility.

Is there a bone to pick? Yes, there is. On July 2 in the Mountain Democrat the Board of Supervisors bragged how they saved $6 million with “construction efficiencies achieved that no one thought possible in the building of a new animal shelter.” Well, that’s not quite true. The animal shelter originally planned literally blew up in front of their faces in costs. It wasn’t well thought out. If it would have been built, it would also have been 20 percent smaller. Daly eventually saw the Shinn Ranch project was a non-starter as projected costs and other difficulties mounted. She had the fortitude to cut bait and take a new direction and Facilities had the answer. In about two years time from that point, under the direction of three dedicated county employees, Frackell, Collins and Evans, plus the quality workmanship of local contractor D.G. Granade, the county found a suitable property and turned it into a 21,000-square-foot state-of-the-art animal shelter with room to grow.

Larry Weitzman is a resident of Rescue.


Larry Weitzman

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