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Our View: Stop plans for $23.6 million Placer animal shelter

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There is certainly a lot of sticker shock with the $23.6 million price tag for construction of Placer County’s proposed new animal shelter. 
 
Beyond the sticker shock, there are questions and surprise as to why there doesn’t seem to be any plan to maintain the pricey shelter once it’s built, or answers as to why plans to contract out the county’s needs at a much lower price were abandoned. 
 
The county board of supervisors should halt progress on the project until there is a viable plan in writing to operate the new building with staff and funding in place to support it. They should also take a serious look at contract options with the Placer SPCA, which is moving forward on plans to build its own new facility in Roseville. 
 
The apparent need for a new shelter facility in Auburn was highlighted in a 2000 grand jury report and again in 2009 in a separate grand jury report. By that time, the county had plans underway to replace the location after a proposed South Placer facility was built to serve Roseville, Rocklin and Lincoln. 
The cost to build a shelter has skyrocketed drastically in the last seven years and there seems to be no strong push from the supervisors to find out why or ask why plans changed. 
 
In July 2006, the supervisors voted unanimously to move ahead with a plan to build two shelters – one in Roseville and the other in Auburn – for a total of $20 million. $5 million of that money was to be used to build the Auburn satellite location. 
 
In December 2011, the supervisors voted to put more money toward the Auburn animal shelter and the cost of the project jumped to $12 million. 
Now, the supervisors have OK’d a $23.6 million, 35,000-square-foot animal shelter in Auburn that will house 68 dogs, 92 cats and exotic and large animals. That is set to replace the current shelter which holds 50 dogs and 80 cats. $23.6 million is a lot of money for an extra 18 spaces for dogs, an additional 12 spaces for cats and an area for large animals. 
 
Instead of just more room to house more animals, which is one of the justifications for a new shelter, the new facility will include indoor and outdoor kennels (the current shelter only has indoor kennels), isolation housing, behavior assessment rooms, exam rooms, isolation area for sick animals, surgery area and recovery room. Outside there will be a barn and paddock in addition to a covered exercise yard and pens for feral cats. 
 
The problem with some of these additional features, such as a surgery area and behavior assessment room, is there is no plan for fully staffing the new shelter. 
 
The shelter’s current staff does not include a veterinarian or a surgery staff. Who will be using the surgery area and at what cost? Who does behavior assessments? 
 
There are currently no answers to those questions, yet the supervisors have signed off on moving forward. 
 
The need for a new facility is further questioned when the county’s actions are compared to that of officials in Roseville and Rocklin. 
 
The City of Roseville agreed to a $630,600 contract for 2012 with the Placer SPCA. The contract covers routine shelter care for a maximum 3,000 animals over the course of a year. In Rocklin, the city agreed to a $131,556 contract with a private veterinarian to handle its intake and adoptions. 
 
The Placer SPCA is currently in the middle of building its own new, hospital quality facility in Roseville.  
 
Contracting out adoption and care services is a very strong option that should be more carefully weighed by supervisors. Can they agree to a similar contract with Placer SPCA? What about also partnering with local veterinarians who qualify as ones who would provide sound care to animals? 
 
Instead, it seems as though Placer County will soon have two brand new empty buildings with the second being the $93 million South Placer Jail. The 450-bed facility is expected to cost $21 million annually to operate.
 
The building sits empty until a plan to fund its operations is agreed upon. Latest reports put the opening date in 2014. 
 
It’s bad business to open a brand new, expensive facility with no plan to operate it. 
 
Supervisors need to show taxpayers they care about the public money they are entrusted to protect by halting plans for the new pet shelter and reopening the possibility of contracting the service or look at downsizing parts of the plan. They should also demand a solid plan in writing with funding sources to
operate the shelter as soon as construction is complete. 
 
Taxpayers deserve that kind of good business sense from their county leaders.