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Board agrees on rules for $500K shelter expansion

The Rowan County Board of Commissioners on Monday approved an agreement that sets rules for the donation of a $500,000 animal shelter expansion, but it didn’t come without vocal opposition from Chairman Jim Sides.

Formally titled a memorandum of understanding, the agreement puts most of the responsibility for construction of the shelter expansion on Winston-Salem philanthropist Christine Morykwas, who pledged to pay for any associated costs and later donate the additional space to the county. Rowan County government would assume responsibility for upkeep, according to the agreement.

Sides cast the only vote against the memorandum of understanding, saying that commissioners should consider the cost of upkeep before agreeing to accept the expansion.

“While I appreciate a $500,000 gift to the county, I’m one of those people that understands free is not free,” Sides said. “Based on what I understand and the cost estimates that I’m looking at, we’re looking at a cost of probably somewhere in the neighborhood of $150,000 per year.”

The agreement is for 20 years. Sides said when additional salaries are factored in over a period of 20 years, the county is paying $3 million for a $500,000 expansion.

“I just personally am not willing to spend any more,” Sides said.

Based on conversations with the animal shelter staff, Sides said the additional space would require at least two full-time employees and a number of part-time employees.

The only other commissioner to comment on the expansion during the meeting was Vice-Chairman Craig Pierce. When asked about Sides’ comments after the meeting, Pierce said the expansion would work toward a no-kill or low-kill shelter and, in turn, lower the overall cost of operating the shelter. However, Pierce agreed that additional staff would need to be hired.

“It’s ridiculous to think you’re going to build 3,200 square feet and not have to staff it,” Pierce said. “There’s no way this county would ever allocate over $500,000 to make an addition to the shelter because of exactly what (Sides) said — what it would cost to staff it. At the same time, this county is never going to move toward our goal if we don’t start making some strides to that end.”

Pierce said that based on his separate conversations with animal shelter staff, the number of employees needed for the expansion would be four part-time workers, rather than Sides’ estimate of four full-time employees.

“You’re simply giving them an hourly rate, and you use them as you need them,” he said. “So I certainly think that we can develop a business model for the shelter with the revenue that comes in from adoptions.”

Estimates cited during the meeting used early January as a possible completion date.

The responsibilities listed for Morykwas in the memorandum include designing and constructing the expansion without recourse for services against the county, sole responsibility for all aspects of the expansion’s construction, transferring the building to county government without any liens or third-party claims and abiding by state and federal laws.

The county’s responsibilities include providing easements during construction, staffing and maintaining the shelter, according to the memorandum.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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