Recently there have been numerous questions posed about the Administration’s decision to upgrade Ascension’s Animal Shelter. Why spend precious dollars to repair the existing facility when the parish will build a new one when sufficient funding becomes available? The reasons, explained below, are many and acute.
In the beginning of 2020 CARA’s House alerted the Administration of numerous problems at the Animal Shelter, some critical deficiencies jeopardizing the well-being of the animals in our charge. A damaged roof, unreliable/unsafe electrical system, severe drainage issues resulting in sewer backup…CARA’s House’s list caused concern. President Cointment dispatched our Maintenance Department to investigate the claims.
What we found was beyond troubling and warranted immediate attention.
- The roof was rusted through, a simple enough fix if not for the fact that much of the vertical support structure was missing. While not an immediate threat to collapse, a severe weather event could pose a real safety threat to the animals and dedicated staff giving them care. Long-term sustainability of the structure is a different matter entirely.
CORRECTIVE ACTION: Expansion of the concrete slab to accommodate a larger roof structure that will afford sufficient space for double-entry kennels. This serves a dual purpose; addressing the roof and structural issues while creating more space to isolate aggressive animals currently warehoused at the Animal Control Facility.
That facility is another acute area of need. Animal Control is located at the parish-owned PJ’s Landing, a facility partially demolished after being flooded in August 2016. Conditions at the facility are horrific (not hyperbole, nor exaggeration).
The previous administration left the facility in its post-flood condition. Walls haphazardly removed, metal studs sporadically located, electrical fixtures’ (operable or not) wiring exposed from the ceiling…inexcusable. Restroom facilities are cordoned off by a blue tarp as Animal Control staff operate out of a portable wooden shed.
Collected animals are housed in single gate enclosures necessitating the use of a shovel or stick to keep aggressive animals at bay while feeding/watering and cleaning kennels. The situation at PJ’s landing is unacceptable. The Administration decided that Animal Control will share a location with CARA’s House.
- The electrical issues were evident due to the countless number of extension cords crisscrossing the facility. Powering fans, necessary during the summer; portable heaters in the winter…system overload is a constant threat just like tripping hazards for employees and volunteers. Exposure to water, weather-related or while cleaning the facility, could have dire consequences.
CORRECTIVE ACTION: We determined to increase the shelter’s electrical capacity from our provider and improve the electrical circuits throughout the facility. The improved electrical system will obviate the need for extension cords while ensuring the comfort of shelter animals…and staff.
- While the facility was not actively dealing with a plumbing crisis, CARA’s House leadership described a degraded drainage system which results in frequent sewer backup. According to Maintenance, lines were cleaned as well as possible, but the problem persists. Undersized lines eventually failed with the only remedy being a rebuild of the system.
CORRECTIVE ACTION: Redesign of the shelter’s plumbing to control effluent and reduce the risk of sewer backup. Exposing animals, staff and volunteers to wastewater is irresponsible and will not be allowed to continue.
Additionally, a new HVAC system will be installed to eliminate the need for multiple window units. The current system, in addition to being too small, has several leaks. If brand new it would be insufficient to heat/cool a building the size of our Animal Shelter.
These measures will not adversely impact, nor delay construction of a new Animal Shelter. Voters approved the 1-mill property tax on December 8, 2018, going into effect for 2019.
The current administration has worked closely with CARA’s House staff to rebuild a broken partnership. During the many trials and tribulations of storm events in 2020, the Administration did all it could to facilitate the relocation of CARA’s House to Lamar Dixon for nearly three months.
This was done to ensure CARA’s House only had to move in and out once during the storm season. Many threats of high water at their Sorento location, and the corresponding worries for the safety of staff and the animals in their care, were avoided.
This past weekend the Administration provided a generator to ensure staff and animals would remain safe during this cold weather storm.
The ability to erect a new animal shelter with taxpayer funding is a blessing that we do not take for granted. We will not waste those precious dollars entrusted by Ascension voters. Efficiency requires thoughtful consideration, diligent research, and proper planning.
The administration intends to issue an RFQ for engineering/architectural services at the beginning of 2022. Once construction documents are approved those services will go out for bid with an eye toward breaking ground in early 2023. Based on preliminary estimates, $2.1 million will have been banked toward new construction and the parish will save approximately $1.5 million in interest payments.