Council to consider $550,000 purchase of 6.24 acres for new Animal Shelter

Included in the Market Value Appraisal

In January 2022 Ascension’s Animal Services Board forwarded two sites for consideration as the parish’s new animal shelter’s location.  Property acquisition negotiations, if any given the secretive nature of the entire process, bore no fruit and the Board’s search continued.  Appearing on Thursday’s Parish Council agenda, a purchase agreement for 6.24 acres just north of Gonzales’ city limits is up for approval by the governing authority.

The purchase price, $550,000, is in keeping with a December 18, 2022 Market Value Appraisal performed by Falgoust Appraisal Services, Inc. for “A Vacant and Unimproved Commercial Tract” located at 12472 N Burnside Ave.  (A second appraisal came in at $545,000).

The real property, which is the subject of this appraisal, consists of a vacant and unimproved tract encompassing 6.24 Acres on the east side of North Burnside Avenue (Louisiana Highway 44) and the south side of Turo Lane at Gonzales, Ascension Parish, Louisiana. The property has a municipal address of 12472 Highway 44, Gonzales, LA. It abuts the west side of the corporate limits of the City of Gonzales and Linenwood Crossing Subdivision. Via North Burnside Avenue, the property is 558± feet south of Cannon Road, 1,023± feet north of Lowes Avenue, and 2,363± feet north of Airline Highway. It is mostly open and grassed over. Within the subject tract, an area of 2.0± Acres is “jurisdictional wetlands” that will need to be mitigated prior to development. The tract is located within Flood Zone ‘X’; however, a part of the property was inundated in the August 2016 flood. The property is zoned for ‘MU, Mixed Use Corridor’ use by the Parish.

The agenda item appears under General Business after being removed from the Finance Committee’s February 7 agenda.

Enlisting the professional expertise of Shelter Planners of America (SPOA), the Board forwarded two sites 13 months ago.

From January 2022

Neither, apparently, panned out.  SPOA favored proposed Site #1 (see above) because ” it has more visibility by the highway, better access, has less flooding concerns, and has more useable space.”  Visibility in a high traffic area is cited as the most important factor in increasing pet adoptions.  As to design, the factors to be considered in building a modern animal shelter are too many to enumerate here.

At the time, President Clint Cointment’s administration had hoped to secure necessary acreage via donation, hoping for a groundbreaking in 2023.  Not much has gone according to plan or, more accurately, there was no plan at all when the former Parish Council placed a one-mill property tax on the ballot on December 8, 2018.

Four years and two months have elapsed since Ascension’s electorate (16.4% of them bothering to cast a ballot) voted “YES” to the question:

Shall the Parish of Ascension, State of Louisiana (the “Parish”) levy and collect a tax of one (1) mill on all property subject to taxation in the Parish (an estimated $1,300,000.00 reasonably expected at this time to be collected from the levy of the tax for an entire year) (the “Tax”), for a period of ten (10) years, beginning with the year 2019 and ending with the year 2028, for the purpose of acquiring, constructing, improving, maintaining and operating an animal shelter for the Parish, including necessary equipment and facilities therefor?

From the 2023 Budget Book

Actual revenues have significantly exceeded that anticipated $1.3 million.  The value of one parish-wide mill continues to increase, with $1,700,500 to be collected for 2022.


Ascension’s current Animal Services Fund budget is the first to omit operating and related expenses, allowing for $1 million to be transferred into the Shelter Construction Fund.  In 2022 the budget included $1,157,500 in expenditures compared to 2023 when that number was cut in half; $544,5000.  In 2022 $600,000 was transferred to the Construction Fund.

The increased Construction Fund appropriation is made possible by the elimination of operating expenses, including those for personnel, from the Animal Services budget.  The single largest budgetary allocation continues to be CARA’s House, $399,000 in 2022, an increase from the static $350,000 it has received in other budgets.  The non-profit took over operations of the existing Animal Shelter pursuant to an agreement in 2015.

The Animal Services Fund is anticipated to have an Ending Fund Balance of $2,440,707 by 2023’s end, available for transfer into the Construction Fund when the time is right.

According to the Animal Services Board meeting minutes for October 5, 2022:

The 2022 tax fund budget funded animal control, the new shelter savings, and Cara’s House. The 2023 budget will only include Cara’s‘ House and the new shelter savings. Animal Control will be its own department funded by the Parish’s general fund. O’Neil Parrington originally said all animal related departments had to be paid from the tax money in addition to saving for the new shelter. But the new attorney generals said they can be separate so more money can be saved for the new shelter.

Under the heading, New Shelter Update, those minutes included:

Ruth Phillips gave an update on new shelter location. Highway 44 in Gonzalez probably not going to happen. The Parish hired a real estate agent Ruth will get with legal so the agent can be given a task order to begin a search. It’s ideal to find a property that’s already zoned so a faster process to purchase. The Parish cannot pay 10% above appraisal price. Hopefully the press release helps the parish locate a property that’s high and dry.

The Animal Services Board went into Executive Session itself on November 2, 2022 “so that a purchase request can be sent to the Council in December.”  But that did not happen because one of the property appraisals was not received in a timely enough fashion.  The January 11 Board meeting minutes:

“Ruth Phillips gave an update on the first appraisal and is waiting on second appraisal.  Both locations are high and dry, even during 2016 flood.  Plot would fit the Shelter Planners of America (SPOA) proposed layout.”

SPOA’s proposed layout was part of its findings that also included projected costs for two potential facilities.

  • Option No. 1 is a 21,628 sq ft facility (16,732 enclosed) at a cost range from $6.5-9.2 million.
  • Option No. 2 (“Bare Bones”) envisions 17,195 sq ft (13,534 enclosed) with a $4.1-7.3 million range.

With the millage funding it all set to expire at the end of 2028, the budget could be tight even with operating expenses being appropriated from Ascension’s General Fund.