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story.lead_photo.caption Animal control officer Cody Wilson pets Rosie, a recently adopted red shepherd mix, on Thursday at the Centerton Animal Shelter. - Photo by Charlie Kaijo

BENTONVILLE -- A couple of outside organizations are willing to pay the engineering and design fees for an animal shelter, according to the Bentonville City Council and committee members.

Bill Burckart said in November that the city might be asked for $350,000 for the engineering and design services, but Tim Robinson said a couple of third parties are willing to foot the bill. Burckart and Robinson are council members who serve on the Pet Resource and Service Center Steering Committee.

The Animal Shelter Task Force changed to the steering committee at the end of last year when the focus changed from determining whether a shelter was needed and wanted, to determining logistics to make it happen.

The committee includes city staff from departments including legal, police, public works and finance. It also includes animal advocates, a veterinarian and representatives of the Walton Family Foundation and Best Friends Animal Society, a national nonprofit animal welfare organization.

Having a partner pay for the engineering and design services will move the process of creating a shelter forward, but the city should still be a participant in those discussions, Burckart said.

The task force recommended the shelter be a public-private partnership. The city could continue to offer animal control services, but any other services beyond that would be the responsibility of the partnering nonprofit group, members recommended.

The committee met for the first time Jan. 15. Robinson gave council members a report Jan. 22.

The committee will focus on location, the ownership and operating agreements, and money for construction and operation, Robinson said.

The committee is considering three locations for the shelter: near the intersection of Southwest I Street and Southwest Regional Airport Boulevard, near the compost facility on Northwest A Street, and near the intersection of Southwest I and Southwest Eighth streets.

Committee and task force members have said the shelter needs to be a facility of which residents can be proud, and that its location needs to be in a highly trafficked area to encourage more adoptions.

The city owns 12 acres on the southeast corner of the intersection with Southwest I Street and Southwest Regional Airport Boulevard. City officials are looking at using 2 acres for an administrative services building.

There could be potential benefits, such as cost savings, if the same engineering firm worked on both projects, Burckart said.

Robinson said Mike Bender, public works director, suggested the compost facility be considered.

"There could be a vision where we move that compost facility more outside of town and repurpose that 40 acres," Robinson said, explaining the focus could become about greenspace, bikes and the animal shelter.

Council member Octavio Sanchez said the site needs to be decided soon, and it may take too long to move the compost facility.

Walmart owns the property at Southwest I and Southwest Eighth streets, but it may be willing to donate land to the city for the shelter, Robinson said.

Springdale went through a site selection process for its new animal shelter last year. Its City Council decided in August to buy land on Don Tyson Parkway.

"We looked at four locations," said Wyman Morgan, director of administration and finance.

Criteria that city officials and council members considered in evaluating each site included the cost to develop the site, how centrally located it was, and how visible it would be to the public, he said.

"We looked at each site, their pluses and minuses, compared them to each other and had public input on them," Morgan said.

There were some points of contention. Some people didn't like the possibility of a shelter at the east entrance of J.B. Hunt Park because it would take away open space.

Land on Ford Avenue was in an industrial area, not highly visible to the public, which some people liked and others didn't, Morgan said.

The largest agreement among council members was the land on Don Tyson Parkway, he said.

The Bentonville committee is also looking at other animal shelters across the country run by city-nonprofit partnerships and taking note of what would be applicable locally, Robinson said.

It's likely that the first contract between the city and a nonprofit group would only be for a few years, so any needed adjustments can be made before a long-term commitment, he said.

Early estimates have the building costing $8 million, and the committee is hoping the city can contribute about 25 percent, or $2 million, Robinson reported. The remaining $6 million would be sought in donations, fundraising and other partnerships.

The city's contribution should be included in the 2020 budget, and the contract for animal services should be switched from Centerton to the city in 2021, Robinson said.

Bentonville contracts with Centerton to take lost and stray dogs to its animal shelter. The three-year contract has a base fee of $300,000 plus $100 for each dog taken to the shelter.

Bentonville is the only one of the region's four largest cities without an animal shelter.

The steering committee will meet every third Monday of the month. The meetings are open to the public because more than one elected official is a part of the committee.

"To get everyone on the same page, if you have concerns, I would suggest going to those meetings," Mayor Stephanie Orman said.

Metro on 02/04/2019

Print Headline: Officials: Partners will help with shelter in Northwest Arkansas


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