On Nov. 4, Fort Collins voters will decide whether or not a new Larimer Humane Society shelter is built.
The current LHS building, located south of Harmony Road, was built in 1974 and has received only a handful of renovations in the 40 years since. In that time, Larimer County’s population has grown by more than 330 percent.
“The (building’s) flow is not optimal for contagion control or safety,” said Ballot Issue 200’s campaign manager Holly Tarry. “We’re just bursting at the seams.”
According to Tarry, the current LHS shelter has an array of problems, including the presence of asbestos, a failing foundation and inadequate heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems.
“We’ve actually had contractors walk through over the years,” Tarry said. “Universally they all say, ‘You’ve gotta scrap it, it’s not worth it. If you fix this problem, you’ve got another one over here.’”
The building’s office rooms are tightly grouped together, many of which lack ceilings.
“Walking in here my first day, it was kind of like a cave,” said LHS employee Mandy Lee. “I would often have kittens come up and over the wall and into my office.”
Due to the building’s size constraints, Tarry said business hours at the LHS can be quite hectic.
“The lobby … is the most chaotic spot in the whole building,” Tarry said. “We have very, very happy people right next to very, very sad people. Someone can be bringing their failing pet here to be euthanized or they can be hysterically looking for an animal they’ve lost or adopting somebody new. All of it just gets smashed on top of each other.”
Although there is no organized campaign opposing Issue 200, some members of the community believe the initiative goes too far.
“I’ve been in the humane shelter myself a few times,” said Loveland City Councilman Dave Clark. “I can see how rundown of a building it is and I agree that they need a new facility – that’s certainly not the question or the issue – my problem is the way they’re going about it and what they’re trying to do … They’re trying to go from rags to riches in one big step.”
According to Tarry, the proposed shelter will be three times the size of the current building.
“We don’t want to build something that we outgrow next year,” Tarry said.
Clark believes the scope of the project is much too large.
“They’re going to build this huge castle out there,” Clark said. “I just don’t understand why they need that much.”
The initiative would call for an increased sales tax on certain purchases by .1 percent for a maximum of six years. Gas and grocery purchases are excluded. This increase would cost one cent for every $10 spent on applicable purchases, an average of $2.67 per month for the average household according to Tarry.
“We’ve really been challenged with how to meet both of our needs,” Tarry said. “We’re a private organization with a mission and we serve the government function of animal control and sheltering for the entire county.”
Tarry said the shelter did not want local donors to pay for a government facility, nor did they want the community to be taxed to pay for the organization’s mission work. She believes Issue 200 finds a balance between the two functions.
Clark disagrees with the shelter’s plan to use citizens’ tax dollars for funding.
“They’re asking the citizens to pass a sales tax to support and fund a private, nonprofit organization,” Clark said. “It’s nonsense to me.”
If the initiative passes, the new LHS building is anticipated to open in winter 2016.
Tarry said upon completion of construction, ownership of the building will be transferred to the LHS with a deed of trust requiring the organization to perform animal sheltering and control for 30 years.
“We have a ton of support and I think we’re cautious to say, ‘it’s in the bag,’” Tarry said. “We want to do the work and not rest until Nov. 5.”
Collegian Reporter Erick Plattner can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @ErickPlattner.