Odessa City Council is expected to vote in May on a contractor that will oversee construction of a new $10 million animal shelter, Corporal Steven LeSueur, the police department’s public information officer said.
The police department, which oversees shelter operations, has received and is currently reviewing bids received by multiple companies vying for the job, LeSueur said. A department committee is expected to send a recommendation to city council in May.
Police Chief Michael Gerke said the city is in dire need of a new shelter.
“The current facility was built as a pound over 30 years ago,” Gerke said. “It was built to house dogs and cats for 2-3 days and then they were euthanized.
“But things have changed. We’re asking for a facility that’s more conducive to adopting.”
The new 20,538-square-foot facility, which will be constructed just east of the current shelter, is being paid for with funds from certificate of obligation bonds that council approved in 2019, Gerke said. The $10 million earmarked for the new animal shelter was part of an overall $93 million bond that is being used for other projects also.
Gerke said he is aware that some critics, including council members and residents, have called for the city to build a less expensive animal shelter and use the saved dollars to address other problems, like repair streets. Unfortunately, these bond dollars can’t legally be used that way, Gerke said.
Certificate of obligation bonds must be used for the exact purpose requested, in this case, a new animal shelter, he said.
Councilwoman Detra White said the new shelter is long overdue and very much needed. White was one of 6 council members who voted in favor of using certificate of obligation bonds dollars to pay for the project 2 years ago.
Current Councilman Tom Sprawls was also on council two years ago and at the time cast the lone vote against using certificate of obligation dollars to pay for the various projects, including the shelter. Certificate of obligations only require a council vote, but Sprawl’s said that residents should have a vote on the spending.
For years the current shelter has struggled with overcrowding problems, White said. The overcrowding has forced shelter staff over the years to euthanize dogs and cats that otherwise might have been adopted.
The current outdated facility has many problems, besides its small size, White said. The facility is plagued with ongoing plumbing problems and lacks an adequate cooling system, which makes the shelter very hot and humid most of the year.
“I know we’re talking about a lot of money,” White said. “But we’re not talking about building a Taj Mahal for dogs and cats.
“We’re talking about building a new shelter that has more room, that’s animal and people friendly, and promotes adoption.”
Because of the current shelter’s limited space, many dogs and cats that arrive will have to be euthanized immediately because there isn’t space to keep them separated from the rest of the animals, White said.
The new facility would have a room where veterinarians can perform surgeries, including spaying and neutering, White said.
“I’m still very much in favor of moving forward, and have no qualms about the amount of money we’ve borrowed to build the facility,” White said.
Councilwoman Mari Willis, who also voted in favor of the certificate of obligations bonds two years ago, said she also supports building a new animal shelter.
“I do support the animal shelter project and I believe the citizens of Odessa for the most part have indicated their support and approval of this being a need for our community,” Willis said. “Our current shelter…was constructed with gas heaters, evaporative coolers and poor drainage for cleaning. The proposed shelter will have current standard HVAC for animals and staff as well as proper drainage for cleaning. It will also increase capacity for dog and cat housing as well as isolation rooms for ill animals. It will have upgraded medical care areas and adoption areas, both of which are much needed.
“I believe it will be a facility that will be greatly used by our community and one which will make the safety and health of our citizens who use it, staff who work there, and the animal services a priority, as it should be.”