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Healdsburg officials to get update on troubled animal shelter Monday

By CLARK MASON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Healdsburg Animal Shelter officials on Monday will provide an update on their operation to the City Council, capping a turbulent year in an organization rife with staff turnover and resignations on the board of directors.

Despite work being halted indefinitely on its $3.5 million new shelter, mired in a lawsuit alleging construction defects, shelter officials say things have improved.

The new Healdsburg Animal Shelter. (PD File)

“After all the drama over the last year, it’s great to get to a stabilized place,” Bill Anderson, head of the board of directors, said Friday.

He said a new director of animal control services has just been hired, donations are rolling in, and a leaky roof is being fixed on the cramped, 52-year-old cinder block shelter.

“I feel like now we can get back to what we do best,” he said. “We have had some extraordinarily large gifts recently. People are ready to start supporting it again.”

Anderson said any contributions are going to the “care and maintenance” of the existing shelter operation and not toward the unfinished, much larger shelter across the street, on Westside Road.

Due to faulty design and negligent construction, including a cracked foundation, shelter officials allege in a lawsuit that the 7,500-square-foot facility is “effectively uninhabitable.”

They estimate it will take more than a year to resolve the litigation and collect any funds to either fix or dismantle the building, which has been sitting nearly finished, but unoccupied since late 2011.

“The building is completely frozen until the litigation works out,” Anderson said, adding that he believes eventually funds will be awarded to enable the facility to open.

“I’m not counting on anything happening in 2013,” he said.

The organization provides animal control for Healdsburg to handle injured, stray and unwanted animals, as well as adoptions.

The city has a $115,000 annual contract with the shelter for animal control, part of its approximate $650,000 annual operating budget.

“From the city’s perspective they are still fulfilling their contract,” Mayor Gary Plass said Friday. “We still have a good relationship with them.”

“The relationship with the community seems to be strong or improving. We’re not getting a lot of complaints,” he added.

Anderson praised Judi Adams, the new director of animal services who began Nov. 1.

“She brings a lot of maturity and great depth of experience for exactly what we need,” Anderson said of Adams, who worked for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Monterey the past eight years.

Adams was a captain of investigations for the organization, which she said handled 1,000 complaints for animal cruelty per year.

Prior to that, she was health and fitness director at the YMCA in Santa Rosa.

At the Healdsburg Animal Shelter, Adams is in charge of charge of all animal services, helping to oversee about 10 employees with office manager Caroline Marker.

“It seems like everything is full steam ahead now and everything is working itself out,” Adams said.

The dogs and cats are “doing great” and there is about one adoption a day, she said.

And even though the once touted, state-of-the-art shelter sits unfinished, tantalizingly close by, Adams said it’s not a problem.

“It’s a nicer facility and there’s more room,” she acknowledged, but “as far as the animals go, they all have nice places, blankets and a warm floor. They wouldn’t know the difference.”

(You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or clark.mason@pressdemocrat.com.)





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