After a five-year odyssey, the Humane Society of Central Arizona has awarded an $800,000 contract to build a new, 7,000-square-foot animal shelter.
The announcement amounted to the happy ending of a shaggy dog story, with years of twists, turns, false starts and blunted hopes.
The new, indoor shelter will end up with roughly the same number of kennels as the existing, aging, mostly outdoor shelter, but will delight the neighbors with a big drop in noise levels and help the animals, with state-of-the-art facilities that will provide climate-controlled kennels with separate air circulation systems and isolation areas for sick and injured cats and dogs.
“It’s going to be something the whole town can be proud of,” said Steven Semmens, chairman of the construction committee.
Board Chairman Bill Enlund said, “The new shelter is being built adjacent to the current facility at 812 S. McLane with funds in hand to meet construction costs without need of financing. We continue to receive tremendous support from donors throughout the community at large who understand the overwhelming need to get our animals, staff and volunteers into a safe, clean and modern shelter.”
The local firm of Amon Builders will start construction next month and hopes to finish before the end of the year, said Semmens.
Semmens said the Humane Society has just over $1 million in its building fund, which will pay for the new shelter, demolition of the existing shelter and construction of all parking and driveways to provide entrance to the new building.
The announcement caps a five-year effort that started with plans for a much larger, $3.5-million shelter. But the recession upended fund-raising efforts and spawned skepticism about the scale of the original plans to build a large shelter with medical facilities on a large site off Main Street fronting the American Gulch wash.
At the crucial moment, a $400,000 bequest made it possible to move forward with a scaled-down plan on the original site, constructed so that the Humane Society can add a second phase in the same building footprint as demand increases.
So the Humane Society took a hard look at its options, re-organized and came up with the new plan.
“The original plan was clearly more expensive than what was reasonably affordable,” said Semmens. “Given the false starts, we’ve just been meticulous and above board when people approached us frustrated by our lack of success.”
The new shelter should delight both the neighbors and the animals.
The sometimes noisy, outdoor kennels will all move into an attractive brown-olive green, metal, prefabricated building with extra insulation and soundproofing, including interior walls and baffles designed to soak up the barks and meows.
The building will sit in the center of the large property, with plenty of insulating open space between the dogs and the neighbors. The new shelter will also include outdoor exercise areas designed to allow the animals to get exercise without necessarily being on the leash.
“We are surrounded on all sides by open space,” said Semmens. “And it’s going to be significantly quieter because all the kennels are inside. We have gone to state-of-the-art noise mitigation. Not only does that serve us in terms of climate control — but it keeps the noise inside where it belongs.”
The new structure will also provide major benefits to the dogs and cats, many of which remain in the shelter for extended periods, since the Payson shelter keeps adoptable pets for as long as possible — many for months beyond the 72-hour period covered in its contracts with Star Valley, Payson and Gila County.
Currently, the shelter operates out of a ramshackle collection of houses and other buildings not designed as kennels. The new facilities will provide an isolation area for sick animals and separate air circulation for the 48 dog kennels, the three cat rooms and the small office area.
“The current facility is old, it’s very difficult to maintain and difficult to clean, just because of the materials that are there. In the new building, we have relied on state-of-the-art techniques to create the surfaces. Everything is designed with an eye towards ease of cleaning. The epoxy coating on the kennel will be completely non-porous. The floors are of sealed concrete. We’ll have integrated high-pressure washing systems. We’ve been very cost efficient, but where it made sense to spend money in terms of those core functions, that’s where we put the effort.”