History of the Original Animal Shelter
The oldest building that comprised the Lincoln County Animal Shelter were the dog kennels built in 1966. Over time, additional buildings were added, including the lobby and catteries in 2004. The latest addition was funded, designed and built by an outside organization but had problematic structural issues from the very beginning.
Funding for upkeep and repair of the animal shelter is budgeted through the County Maintenance Department and is outside of the Animal Services Taxing District. Extensive maintenance was done over the years but it reached the point where the cost to repair was beyond what was reasonable.
Due to its age, the entire electrical system was overloaded. There were extensive plumbing problems that caused the drains to regularly back up into the building and the design did not allow for proper isolation and separation of animals.
The design and materials used for the newer section of the building created ongoing leaks through the roof despite extensive repairs from county personnel and private companies. Rot inside all exterior walls reached up 8 feet high and fostered an environment prompting the growth of mold.
Planning for a New Animal Shelter
The county has needed a new animal shelter for a long time. A feasibility study for a new shelter was conducted in 2013. Drafts of animal shelter plans were evaluated and funding options and building sites were explored. During that time the preliminary focus was on relocating the animal shelter because there is a water line and a 40-foot easement through the gravel parking lot to the west of the current building which cannot be built upon. The field to the north has sinkholes. In short, shelter operations would be limited to the same-sized building footprint currently used which is inadequate. Therefore there is required a different location for shelter services during construction. We have not ruled out rebuilding on the current site but alternatives are preferred. An animal shelter outside of the city center will provide adequate space for a better designed shelter, additional services and programs and room to expand in the future.
In the course of developing the Commons Master Plan it was determined that the old animal shelter could then be used to fulfill other county needs including building a safe emergency operations center and a bus transit center to better serve the community. These new facilities are compatible at that location and would blend well with the redevelopment plans for the Commons.
In the spring of 2018, after an attempt at further repairs, the county decided to either invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in extensive repairs or start the process to build a new animal shelter. The best estimate of the lifespan of the current shelter buildings was determined to be two to three years. In the budget process beginning in February of 2019, the County Budget Committee and Board of Commissioners approved and adopted a county expenditure of $300,000 for possible land purchase for a new shelter and the exploration of potential relocation sites.
Our Temporary Situation
Although animal shelter workers and county commissioners were aware that the building’s useful life was reaching its end, the discovery of mold within the walls and HVAC system prompted the immediate evacuation of the animal shelter in July of 2019 and accelerated the timeline for developing a new facility. Given the need for a new shelter and the extent of the problems, it would have been financially irresponsible to get rid of the mold.
At that time, emergency shelter operations were set-up at the Exhibit Hall of the County Commons. An extensive search was launched for a temporary interim animal shelter location. Housing for animals requires proper drainage, isolation wards for sick animals, separation of cats, dogs and other animals along with proper zoning and adequate distance from homes and businesses. After two months of searching it became obvious that the only option was to request a permit from the City of Newport to place temporary buildings at the old location.
At the same time the County expedited the search for a new site. The county explored sites with local non-profit ‘Friends of Lincoln County Animals’ and initiated conversations with cities and local real estate professionals.
In our search, county officials required – safe access to main roads; centrally located within the county, if possible; zoned correctly or where zoning changes are feasible; out of the tsunami zone; away from residential areas and within reasonable driving distance to veterinarians.
At this time, property near the airport appears to be a viable option as it meets our initial criteria. While the interim shelter buildings are the best they can be, given the circumstances, time is of the essence to build a shelter that meets the needs of animals, staff, volunteers, and the community.
Shelter personnel and other county officials cannot begin the planning needed to design and develop new facilities until a permanent location for the shelter is secured.
To that end, a new shelter site is being considered next the airport. It’s a nearly 5-acre piece of ground south of the entrance and away from main runways.
If the county and city give the green light for the airport location there are many design strategies that can help mitigate any noise concerns – which is important for animal shelters. While the animals’ health and safety are of utmost concern, the vast majority of animals that are cared for at the shelter are there for a very short time – many for just a few days, others for a few weeks and very few for two to three months. Even at the current shelter animals are subject to a lot of noise from the county road department (with machinery that shakes the dog kennels), nearby City shops, an asphalt batch plant, associated trucks and machinery, rodeos, monster trucks, carnival rides, and concerts among other goings-on at the Commons.
While the animal shelter may not ultimately be built in the center of Newport, the county wants the new shelter to be centrally located for all residents served from Yachats, to Harlan, to Neotsu. Everyone is committed to exploring and expanding partnerships to help ensure animal services are accessible to everyone.