County talks plans for over-budget animal shelter
By TAYLOR COOPER
Special-purpose, local-option sales tax-related discussions dominated the Glynn County Commission’s work session Tuesday.
A new animal control shelter planned for the back corner of the county’s public safety complex off the Ga. 25 Spur has been on the back burner for a while, which is why Public Works Director Dave Austin sought direction from the commission on how to proceed.
“What we need is an azimuth check. Typically in the military, an azimuth check is, you tell me which direction you want me to move out in,” Austin said.
In SPLOST 2016, the commission set aside $1.5 million for a new animal control facility. After paying an architect — Ussery Rule Architects — to design a new shelter, $1.33 million is left. The architect’s design is estimated to cost $2-2.5 million, depending on how much fat is shaved off.
Building the proposed shelter out as designed would cost an estimated $2.5 million. By changing some construction materials and building half of the dog kennels, the cost could be reduced to $2 million.
Austin presented the commission with some options: build the structure as-is and close the funding gap with money from another source, build a set of additions designed by former Glynn County Police Chief Matt Doering and architect James Kent onto the current shelter, or build the new office building in Ussery’s plans at the current animal control shelter and continue to use the existing dog kennels.
Commissioner Mike Browning asked Animal Control Manager Tiffani Hill for her opinion.
“Option one would be an ideal way to go, but if we can’t build both kennel buildings then we will significantly cut the capacity of the shelter to a point where it’s not really doable ... If we went with option two, which is the Kent building, I can tell you, in all honesty, I don’t think that is the best use of county resources to accomplish our goal at the shelter. It, in some ways, would actually be less efficient and effective for us than the shelter we have now, which has many issues to it,” Hill said.
When asked about the third option, Hill said the office structure is well-designed and would suit animal control’s needs, however, the shelter has many issues with flooding, plumbing and its current dog kennel building.
“The kennel structure needs to be, at the very least, resurfaced on the inside on the walls and floors and also at this point in time, there are some challenges with the way the kenneling is connected to the concrete. The screws are failing so the dogs are now able to push out the fencing and escape which is, of course, a significant risk management issue for the county,” Hill said.
Browning said Austin has some ideas for dealing with flooding, but Hill spoke to the plumbing problems, saying they’re costing the county money.
Commissioner Bob Coleman took issue with proposals to build onto the existing animal control shelter. He said the commission told the public they would get a new shelter, and it needs to deliver on that.
Browning asked whether or not the county was obligated to build a new shelter, to which County Attorney Aaron Mumford responded that the SPLOST 2016 referendum was worded in such a way that the county didn’t need to actually construct a new building.
Commissioner Allen Booker backed Coleman up, saying the county should deliver on what it told the public.
If the $2.5 million was just an estimate, Commissioner Wayne Neal asked why they didn’t just put the project out to bid and get “real numbers” from contractors.
Austin said he doubted many local contractors would submit bids if they believed the county couldn’t actually pay for it.
Browning agreed, saying he didn’t want to waste contractors’ time.
Booker suggested paying for the money out of the county’s pocket and reimbursing itself with SPLOST 2020 revenue.
The county could do that, or could issue bonds to cover the cost and use SPLOST revenue to pay off the bonds, Mumford said.
Ultimately, the commission decided to hold off on making a formal decision to give Mumford time to prepare a list of funding options.
Hill reiterated that only building part of the new facility won’t really accomplish anything, but said animal control is struggling with the current shelter.
“We do feel like we’re holding the current facility together with bubble gum and duct tape, so we do need some help,” Hill said.
In other business, the commission heard an update on SPLOST-funded improvements to the Altama Connector from the intersection at the Home Depot to the intersection at the Scranton Connector. Plans for this project came in under budget, said Public Works Roads and Drainage Division Manager Ben Pierce.
Traffic engineers with engineering firm Pond and Company presented a set of drawings showing, in their opinion, the best way to unclog traffic around the Spur intersection with the space and money available.
Engineer Kevin Skinner started with the intersection between SunTrust Bank and Burger King. Using concrete islands, he recommended restricting motorists exiting onto the Altama Connector from turning across traffic.
It would mean they may have to travel down the connector and pull a u-turn to go the other way, he said.
At the spur intersection, Skinner recommended new lanes on each side — a dedicated left turn lane on the eastbound side and a second through lane on the westbound. The westbound side would have to be widened to accommodate a new right turn lane.
Turning across traffic directly into Captain D’s, Arby’s and Wendy’s would be prohibited by concrete islands, he said. He recommended adding turn lanes for motorists turning across traffic onto Merchants Way and the road between Wendy’s and Nalley Honda of Brunswick.
Further along, he recommended turn lanes on the eastbound side of the connector into Walmart’s parking lot, among other changes.
Commissioners weren’t too fond of the plan but felt it was the best they could do with what they had. Pierce asked for the commission to give him the go-ahead to begin buying right-of-ways and applying for Georgia Department of Transportation permits.
Browning told him he had it.
Commissioners also talked about a planned SPLOST 2020 referendum.
Most commissioners were in favor of holding the referendum during the May 2020 general primary.
If approved, there would be no break between the end of SPLOST 2016 collection and the beginning of SPLOST 2020 collection. Browning pointed out that, if the county waited until the November 2020 general election, businesses would have to stop collecting the tax and then start again later. Some commissioners feared it would pose a hardship for local businesses.
A discussion of a proposed lease with the St. Simons Boating and Fishing Club for the St. Simons Island Marina was tabled, as Commissioner Peter Murphy was absent and he was the most knowledgable on the subject.
The commission’s next regular meeting is scheduled for tomorrow at 6 p.m in the Old Glynn County Courthouse, 701 G St. in Brunswick.