ashland.news
July 24, 2024

County officials could ask voters to decide on a special district for animal services

Meredith Yox looks after dogs being stored in the hallway of the Jackson County Animal Shelter.
March 29, 2024

Average cost per household would be $33.70 per year to build new shelter, fund operating costs

By Buffy Pollock, Rogue Valley Times

Jackson County voters this November could be asked whether they support the creation of a special district that would provide a permanent funding source for Jackson County Animal Services.

If approved by voters, the measure, which would assess 15 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, would fund the construction of a new county animal shelter and offices — a project estimated to cost just under $15 million — as well as ongoing operating costs. County officials say current operating costs have exceeded the county’s ability to fund the facility through the general fund.

The average cost per household in the county, based on a median assessment value of $224,660, would be $33.70 per year.

County commissioners Colleen Roberts and Dave Dotterrer on Tuesday discussed the need to increase funding for animal services. Commissioner Rick Dyer was absent. Options discussed included the special district, as well as a possible bond levy or, without voter support, scaling back services due to a lack of funding.

County Administrator Danny Jordan said that, beginning in early April, county officials will present preliminary information to various cities, asking that they approve resolutions allowing their voters to cast ballots on creating a special district. After cities have weighed in, preliminary costs will be calculated, and commissioners will vote whether to place the measure on the November ballot.

Located south of Phoenix, the existing shelter — which employees and volunteers believe was built in the 1960s — is in a state of disrepair and does not provide enough capacity to accommodate the growing number of dogs being housed.

A cat awaits the adoption process at the Jackson County Animal Shelter.

In recent months, the shelter has stopped accepting or housing stray cats — accepting only “evidence” cats being held by law enforcement — due to limited capacity. A feasibility study was done over the past year to determine the cost to replace and operate the ailing shelter, which Jordan said Tuesday had been in desperate need of replacing for at least two decades.

“Every year for the 18 years I’ve been here, I’ve put in the budget that we have needed a new animal shelter,” Jordan told commissioners, noting that the existing shelter was “not meant for what it’s doing today.”

The existing shelter, he noted, was built with an original capacity of 14 kennels for dogs. The building was expanded in 1975, adding office space, an area for animal control staff and 16 more dog kennels. In 1991, the shelter was expanded once more, adding 25 more dog kennels.

Current capacity allows for 86 animals, but capacity is often exceeded at over 100 or more for a daily census, meaning dogs are sometimes housed temporarily in crates.

Meredith Yox takes some time with a dog at the Jackson County animal shelter.

“People have been on us for a long time to build a new facility, so this is going to allow them to support building a new facility,” Jordan said.

He said that if the county misses the deadline to get a measure on the November ballot, “We either have to extend it or we’re going to just have to go the bond or levy route.”

If voters opt not to support a special district, Jordan said the county could seek an operating levy, but would likely have to “back out of including cats” and build a smaller replacement shelter.

Building a facility without room for cats, Jordan noted, would save just over $2 million on preliminary construction designs. However, Jordan told Roberts and Dotterrer on Tuesday that he felt the community supported the idea of a shelter that would house dogs and cats.

Without a special district or some other type of added funding, Jordan said the county would struggle to build and operate a new shelter.

Whatever size and type of replacement shelter ends up being built, the existing shelter location would be moved and the new facility constructed on a 47-acre parcel at the southwest corner of Grumman and Kingsley drives, near East Vilas Road. The parcel is near the future location of a shelter being constructed by the Southern Oregon Humane Society.

The property, purchased for $6.6 million five years ago, would also be used to construct a future jail site. 

Jackson County owns two parcels, totaling 47 acres, off of Lear Way near White City. Exact location of a future animal shelter, which would be next to a new jail, has not yet been determined. Jackson County graphic

If voters approve a special district and construction of a new shelter for both dogs and cats, preliminary designs call for a 23,000-square-foot facility, nearly twice the size of the existing shelter. While operating costs would fluctuate year to year, Jordan said the district would generate just under $3.7 million in year one and just under $4.09 million by year four.

“Everybody knows we need a new shelter. They may not agree 100% with how we propose to run it or operate it, but hopefully they won’t try to block animals having a better living situation,” Jordan said.

“If voters don’t support it, we’re going to narrow the scope of service, not because we want to, but because we have to. We just don’t have the money to do it all.”

Jordan added, “I would really enjoy this being able to be accomplished for the sake of the animals. It’s a short turnaround, but we think we have enough time to get everything done.”

He said he hopes the community gets behind the measure.

“It’s something you’d think most people would support. Most people care about animals, at least to some degree.”

Reach reporter Buffy Pollock at 458-488-2029 or bpollock@rv-times.com. Follow her on Twitter @orwritergal. This story first appeared in the Rogue Valley Times.

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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