By Beth Lawrence


Jackson County Board of Commissioners voted to fund a new animal shelter that will be located at the Green Energy Park in Dillsboro.

The board voted 3-1 to approve a capital project ordinance for $5,390,000 with Commissioner Boyce Deitz dissenting and Commissioner Mickey Luker absent.

“I’m very much for this,” Deitz said. “But I think it’s outrageously high. I can’t bring myself to vote for something that spends that much money where there’s so many other things I see that need a lot of money to be spent on.”

Commissioner Ron Mau said he had done independent research and learned that other architectural firms estimated $475 per square foot to construct an animal shelter. He pointed out that Jackson County’s numbers were well below that figure.

The money will come from the capital reserve fund, said Don Adams, county manager.

The money will be split between the shelter building and furnishings, a walking trail at the closed landfill, parking and grading another section of the property for future use, Adams said.

The funding breaks down to: $436,775 for the architect and civil engineering, $40,000 for permitting and engineering, $346,643 for furnishings and fixtures, $595,896 for a contingency fund and $3,970,686 for construction.

Arriving at the point of funding the shelter has been a long and involved process.

The proposal was discussed for years before the current board took action on it.

Nearly everyone concerned agreed to the need for the shelter, but not on what it should look like, where it should be located or how much it should cost.

Adams and representatives of interested organizations held two planning meetings in July to create an understanding of what they wanted the shelter to look like and what it should accomplish. Adams reported results to the board in August.

In September, lead architect Cary Perkins of McMillan, Pazdan and Smith Architecture presented plans to the board for the layout and functions of the shelter.

The building is set up in zones with a public area facing the Green Energy Park, a medical area and cat and dog areas. Habitat areas would be separated but accessible through corridors so staff can easily move through the middle of the building where offices and other needed rooms such as laundry, food storage, office space and supply storage are located.

The cat rooms will face the courtyard.

The dog area is laid out in three pods to refrain from overwhelming potential adopters. Perkins cited studies that say would-be adopters inundated with too many options often cannot decide on a pet to adopt, and more successful shelters offer fewer animals for viewing, Perkins told the board.

The pods are also healthier, limiting the spread of pathogens among animals housed together. If needed, one of the pods could be used for quarantine.

The medical area of the facility would have temporary holding facilities, exam rooms, isolation rooms for sick animals and a grooming area.