With a unanimous vote the county council determined to stop work on a new animal control building for the county. This represents a complete reversal from earlier this year when the only opposition to the building was from Councilmember Ned Mecham. Mecham has voted against the building each time a vote has come before the council. He has repeatedly stated that during the difficult economic climate in which the county finds itself that the time is not right to construct this building.
After the most recent vote to stop the building, Mecham stated that he feels that the building is a good idea, but that the timing is wrong to construct it now.
The members of the council changed their mind about the building after a report from the auditor that revealed that the county had been spending above its revenues and after reviewing how to pay for the building in this year’s budget hearings. The county has been under spending its budget, but larger than expected revenue shortfalls left the county in an overspending position. The council broached the challenge of funding for the building in the recent budget hearings and determined that there was insufficient funding to continue the project.
The county has spent a little more than $63,000 to prepare for construction. It is possible that the county may be able to gain benefit from a little over $31,000 of this money if it decided to build exactly this building at some point in the future. In addition to the $63,000 already spent, the county may have to pay an additional $27,000 in interest on the $600,000 loan. The state may decide to waive the interest since the county is not moving forward with the project.
The building has been under discussion for several years and heavily debated since the new council took office. The county currently leases space from local veterinarian Marion Lott for $1,300 per month. This decision means that the county will likely continue this arrangement, however the council will likely try to enter into a longer term lease to reduce the monthly expense.
Last year the council took action to request a low cost loan from state funds to construct a facility for animal control. The decision to borrow the money was not heavily debated in the council at the time, but has caused controversy and debate ever since new councilmembers took office in January. The initial decision was for a loan of $600,000 to fund a building that could include expansion to manage the overcrowding in the county building. Later, due to cost estimates, the council scoped down the building.
In the first part of this year it looked like there might not be sufficient support on the council to construct this new building, but the process has move forward steadily with consistent support from all but Member Mecham until the latest meeting. The council initially funded the process to bid the building, then hired an architect, and recently awarded the construction contract.
In the previous vote to award the contract for the construction of the building, only members Mecham and Kippen voted against awarding the contract. Member Kippen stated that she had received significant feedback from voters in her district opposing the project and she felt that she should vote against the project based on this feedback.
The latest decision means the end of the project for the present. It is possible that the council will reconsider the building should the revenue situation improve. Should the council move forward at a later date, however, they may not have access to the low interest rate loans currently available. They will also likely face increased costs on the building once the economy improves.