County hopes to get cities involved in funding new animal shelter

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By AJ Vicens

Jeffco officials are trying to broker a deal that would ease the county's financial obligation for funding a new animal shelter and shift some of the burden to cities in the county.

Jeffco Director of Administrative Services Todd Leopold told the county commissioners Aug. 4 that he's working on an agreement with Arvada, Lakewood, Wheat Ridge, Westminster and Golden to help fund construction of the new Foothills Animal Shelter at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds. The new shelter, which will replace the Table Mountain Animal Center, will cost about $9.7 million, with more than $3 million coming from county coffers in the form of direct contributions and the county backing a $5.2 million loan. The rest of the money was to come from the Table Mountain Animal Center Foundation, a nonprofit group that raises money for the shelter.

Leopold said the deal means the cities would chip in if the foundation is unable to raise its $1.5 million share of the funding for the new facility.

Leopold said the foundation had raised roughly $800,000 in pledges in recent weeks; $70,000 of that is cash on hand.

Leopold told the commissioners the deal will eliminate some of the county's risk, shifting it to the cities instead.

Commissioner Kathy Hartman said the deal would help the county and the cities build the 30,000-square-foot facility in one phase rather than spreading the work out, which could boost costs as much as 40 percent. Commissioner Kevin McCasky doubted the 40 percent figure.

"It will be a 20 to 40 percent increase," Leopold told the commissioners. "Obviously, it would be more expensive, and at the end of the day we all want to get the building done."

Leopold said county staff will have a formal agreement drafted soon, and then the deal will be presented to the governing bodies of those cities.

The shelter is expected to open in fall 2010 on the north side of the Jeffco Fairgrounds on land the county donated for the project. It will replace the current 33-year-old shelter, which is half the size of the new building.

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com, and check www.columbinecourier.com for updates and breaking news.