Finance Committee OKs New Animal Shelter

By SCOTT JACKSON

The City Council’s finance committee on Wednesday gave its approval to a $15 million bond to pay for a new building to house the Quincy Animal Shelter, the Police Department’s K-9 unit, and the city’s animal control officer, and the full council could pass the bond at its meeting next week.

Councillors voted 4-1 in favor of the bond during the finance committee meeting. Councillors Ian Cain, Noel DiBona, David McCarthy and Charles Phelan Jr. voted in support of the request while Anne Mahoney was opposed, and Nina Liang voted present. The remaining three councillors were not in attendance.

The vote drew a round of applause from supporters of the Quincy Animal Shelter, who nearly filled the Great Hall inside the McIntyre Government Center for the hearing. One resident was seemingly displeased, however, interrupting the meeting shortly before the vote to ask if the bond would raise her taxes.

The $15 million bond still requires final approval from the council at a regular meeting and it will take six votes to pass. The final regular City Council meeting of the spring is scheduled for June 21 a vote on the bond is expected at that meeting.

The new building would be located at 99 Quarry St., adjacent to the city’s dog park, and will replace the current animal shelter on Broad Street, where the city is building a new public safety headquarters.

Before it can move into the new building, the shelter will be relocated to a temporary home on East Squantum Street, which Paul Hines, the city’s commissioner of public buildings, said is being renovated at a cost of $1 million. Those costs are being paid for with relocation funds included in one of the bonds for the public safety building, he said.

Workers in the Public Buildings Department will relocate to the facility on East Squantum Street once the shelter moves out, Hines said. Those workers are currently based out of North Quincy High School.

The finance committee, in a separate 4-1 vote on June 15, approved taking by eminent domain the building on East Squantum Street and 2.7 acres of adjacent land. A final vote on that could also come next week.

Mayor Thomas Koch sought $7.1 million for the new shelter in 2017, but councillors approved a bond for half of that amount. At the time, councillors expressed concerns about the size of building and about fully funded the project before the design of the facility was complete.

Eric Nelson, an architect with the firm RFA, provided councillors with a look at the new design of the shelter during hearing on Wednesday. The new building would contain about 14,900 square feet of space, down from the initial 21,000-square-foot facility that was presented in 2017.

“It is just shy of 15,000 square feet. It is very compact in comparison to a lot of other shelters serving sizable cities like the city of Quincy,” Nelson said.

The building will have capacity for 84 animals when it opens, he said; 30 cats and 8 dogs ready for adoption, 32 cats and 11 dogs not ready for adoption, and 3 of the Police Department’s canines at a given time. Each animal holding area would have its own exercise yard for those animals.

The building would be spilt roughly 50-50 between the animal shelter and the animal control officer and K-9 unit. The interior would include a reception area at the main entrance, rooms where shelter staff can interview residents looking to adopt an animal, and support areas, such as space for food preparation and bowl cleaning, laundry and administrative offices.

The building would also feature a clinic on site with an exam room – to be used by both the shelter and animal control – a treatment area, a surgery prep room, and a single room for spaying, neutering and surgery, Nelson said. The 2017 plan included a larger on-site clinic than what is now being proposed.

Kit Burke, the Quincy Animal Shelter’s shelter director, said a multi-purpose room inside the new facility would “provide space for emergency housing for the pets of evacuees, as mandated by federal law, in a space that is intended to house animals instead of the gymnasium floor of one of our schools.”

Sandra Sines, the president of the Quincy Animal Shelter, said the city’s residents and animals both deserve to have the new facility.

“Since we began in 1999, the city of Quincy has changed in so many positive ways,” she said. “The residents of the city of Quincy and the animals we serve deserve this new shelter. The Quarry Street shelter will allow us to continue our work and support the community for generations to come.”

The building would be located off Quarry Street along the access road that serves the dog park and would be built parallel to the access road. Nelson said the building would be “nestled” into the hill, saving money on site costs. The rear portion of the building includes a green roof, located on the same level as the sidewalk along the access road. The green roof serves as an extension of the nearby dog park, Nelson said.

Hines said the building would run completely on electricity, rather than using fossil fuels for heating. The project would include a tie-in to an array of solar panels that could be built on the opposite side of the access road, he said.

The city hopes to go to bid for the building over the summer and begin construction in late September, according to Paul Kalous of the firm Hill International, the owner’s project manager. It should be substantially complete in November 2023 and ready for occupancy in January 2024.

The $15 million bond includes $13.95 million for construction costs, $100,000 each for fees to utility companies, materials testing and geo-tech, and furnishings, plus $750,000 for contingencies, Kalous said. Hines said the $3.55 million bond approved in 2017 was used to complete the design of the project and also paid for site work.

During the meeting, Liang asked the project team why the construction costs Kalous referenced were $280,000 higher than the estimated costs were in May, based on documentation provided to councillors.

Kalous said the difference was due to an escalation in construction costs. He noted a 2021 estimate for the construction costs associated with the project came in $1.5 million lower than the amount being sought now; the project team went back to the drawing board last year and revised those plans.

Liang also sought a breakdown of operating costs associated with the new building. Hines said the facility would require a custodial presence and someone from his department would be responsible for that. The building is also expected to have higher energy costs than the facility it is replacing.

Mahoney asked Nelson several questions related to a proposed animal shelter in Milton; Nelson’s firm is designing that building as well as the one in Quincy.  Nelson said a 6,000-square-foot facility in Milton was projected to cost $5 million, and the project has gone back to the drawing board to reduce costs.

Mahoney said Quincy, like Milton, should have sought to reduce costs of constructing the animal shelter.

“Is there any way we could go back to cut costs on this, because that’s what needs to happen – $15 million is not acceptable to the taxpayers of the city of Quincy,” she said. “You are doing that for the town of Milton. You’re not being asked to do that for the city of Quincy. I think this council needs to ask you to go back and do that. You need to tighten your belt and come back with something we can afford to do.”

DiBona, the council president, called the new animal shelter a missing piece that would help take Quincy to the next level. He made a motion to pass the bond out of committee.

“Just think about if we kick the can down the road for this project, how much more it would be down the road,” DiBona said. “This puts us in a pretty decent position to get the bids in, get construction in in September, and have this built out for January of ’24. It’s kind of a decent timeline – you get into construction before the winter starts to start, where some of the area could be frozen.”

Phelan, the chairperson of the finance committee, said it was time to move the project forward.

“I am not in favor of kicking this down the road any more. I think it is time that we act,” he said. “I realize it is an expense for the taxpayers, but I think it is money well spent.”

Liang said she wanted the information she requested about the construction estimate and the operating costs of the facility before voting on the matter.

“There’s two things that need to happen. We need to get the shelter built and opened, but we also need to ensure its success. Those two pieces of information would be helpful to me to make sure we ensure the success and operation of the building moving forward,” Liang said.

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