San Mateo County has a new pet project.
The county intends to spend up to $20 million on a new, modern animal shelter to replace the aging and outdated facility at Coyote Point — a building the head of the Peninsula Humane Society said was behind the times from the day it opened.
The design of the building, which dates from the 1960s, was primitive even then. The wear and tear of workers, volunteers and about 8,000 live animals through its doors annually takes a toll, said Ken White, executive director of the Peninsula Humane Society/Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
“The facility is being held up with maintenance, duct tape and a prayer,” White said.
San Mateo County contracts with PHS for its animal control and sheltering services and has done so for more than 50 years. Animals are processed at the 12 Airport Blvd. location and if or when deemed ready for adoption moved to the Tom Lantos Center for Compassion, the donor-funded facility that opened in 2011 on Burlingame’s Rollins Road.
The current contract expires in June 2015 and White said if the relationship continues — as all involved seem to anticipate it will — the separated duties of the two buildings would actually keep down the cost of a new shelter because it wouldn’t need to replicate some areas such as adoption or long-term animal housing.
Where the Lantos facility is very focused on aesthetics to encourage adoption, White said a new county shelter would be more utilitarian and practical in nature. Take, for instance, what White is most excited about potentially including in a new shelter — a system to deliver disinfecting and cleaning chemicals through a tube to where the technicians are so they don’t need to drag them out and mix by hand.
PHS has no official say in the shelter as it is a county project but is serving voluntarily as a consultant. White, who has three facility builds under his belt including the Burlingame center, said shelter designs are complicated and must consider a broad range of factors.
Good air flow to prevent disease. Volunteer access versus security. Duration of animal stays. The range of species. Exercise needs.
Only a half-dozen architects have even designed shelters and the amount of pipes and electrical work alone can be daunting which why it is so expensive per square foot, White said.
Although a shovel is far from in the ground, the plan currently calls for San Mateo County to pick up the construction price tag and own the 33,500-square-foot building. The county’s 20 cities which contract SPCA/PHS for animal control services would then lease the building from the county. The lease would cover a portion of the construction costs and ongoing maintenance, said Environmental Health Director Dean Peterson.
Discussions with the cities about financing are still in the initial stage, said Deputy County Manager Petty Jensen.
Each city’s share would be prorated based on a formula which includes its level of use, she said.
Although hopes for a new shelter have been mulled for years, Peterson said the county committed its interest about a year ago when Public Works inspected the existing building and decided an entire overhaul was more appropriate than a renovation. The county issued a request for proposals about six months ago and Peterson said the possible firms have been whittled down to three.
The price tag is estimated at most $20 million but could be as low as $13 million, Peterson said.
Construction would be phased so that the existing shelter can continue operating as the new facility is being built at the same location.
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