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Commissioners approve Oakland County Animal Control’s new ‘forever home’

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published November 2, 2015

 The new animal control building will be built on vacant space near the Oakland County Sheriff’s headquarters at the county complex. Administrators hope the move will make the facility easier to find for potential pet adopters than the current space on Brown Road in Auburn Hills.

The new animal control building will be built on vacant space near the Oakland County Sheriff’s headquarters at the county complex. Administrators hope the move will make the facility easier to find for potential pet adopters than the current space on Brown Road in Auburn Hills.

File photo by Deb Jacques

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OAKLAND COUNTY — When the ground thaws this spring, contractors will be digging into the vacant space near the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office headquarters to construct a new $15.45 million home for Oakland County Animal Control and Pet Adoption Center.


Oakland County commissioners voted 18-1 to approve the sale of investment bonds to fund the project, which will move the facility from its current location on Brown Road in Auburn Hills to the heart of the county complex. Adding about 50 percent more legroom, the new building will be about 30,500 square feet and house a number of amenities to make animal care safer and more efficient.


The lone vote against the project was from Commissioner Dave Woodward, who argued for an amendment to the resolution that would seek additional consultation to make sure the building is certified at the highest level available by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Council.


“Is it justified to spend a little more money now to save more money in the long run?” Woodward argued during the commissioners’ meeting Oct. 15. “If it costs us 10 percent more to save more than that (over) a reasonable amount time on a building we’re going to own forever, it should be on the table.”


The LEED analysis is estimated to cost between $1 million and $2 million, and Woodward cited the Oakland County International Airport, the first in the country to be LEED certified, as an energy-saving flagship for the county and said the new shelter should be equally as efficient.


Commissioner Shelley Goodman Taub agreed with other commissioners who said the cost likely wouldn’t be justified.


“If you will remember, our airport received a million-dollar federal grant (for LEED-certified building),” she said. “I’m confident as these architects proceed with this structure, they will do everything they can within their possible ability to save energy wherever they can, make it as energy efficient as possible.”


Goodman Taub also argued that with evolutions in energy, she’s not confident that the efficiency standards of today will still be in place about 40 years from now, which is how long the return on investment is expected to take.


The bonds are slated to go on sale in mid-November, and funds should be collected for the new building by December.


While Oakland County Director of Public Services Mark Newman estimated that the building should be underway come spring or early summer of next year, he insisted there isn’t much wiggle room.


“We’re on an aggressive timeline,” he said, noting that it was Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson who first saw a need for a new OCACPAC facility and who is motivated to see the building come to fruition quickly.


The current building is 40 years old and is estimated to cost at least $1.4 million to maintain without enhancements.


OCACPAC Manager Bob Gatt is motivated too, to say the least. While the new building won’t expand its capacity for holding animals — which is about 140 cats and 150 dogs —  it will streamline operations to make the approximately 5,400 animals that come in annually healthier and happier during their stay at the shelter.


“This means the world to us, but even more than those of us who work here, it means the most to the animals. They really are the biggest beneficiaries,” he said.


SA+A Architects, of Lake Orion, which designed the new shelter, worked with the Boulder, Colorado-based design consultation firm Animal Arts to make the building as healthful and pet-friendly as possible — as well as energy efficient with LEED-certified architects on the job, Newman added.


The best feature, he boasted, will be the improved heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, with much improved air purifiers, which he said will better protect animals from airborne diseases. The kennels will have a more healthful design as well, allowing animals to eat, sleep and play in separate areas to reduce waste contamination.


Enhanced dog runs are on the docket, along with state-of-the-art medical areas for veterinarians to work. The housing spaces for cats and dogs will be better separated too, so animals don’t suffer from increased anxiety, and in turn illness, inflicted from the meowing or barking of their counterparts.


“We’re really using every inch of this space,” Gatt said. “Our staff won’t really be (impacted) much, because all the improvements are for the animals. Our offices are small, and there are no frills. We’re not building the Taj Mahal here. But everything is for the animals.”


The location of the new building should be a plus too, Gatt explained, since the county complex is considerably easier to find than the current location, with better access to main roads and freeways. It will also eliminate the cost of transporting shelter help from the Oakland County Jail and Children’s Village.


“Right now, we invite county employees to come over once a week to walk the dogs,” he said, referring to Brooks Patterson’s health initiative, called “Fitness Unleashed.” “Now, we’ll invite them to come walk the dogs every day. We’re always looking for volunteers.”


Newman said the current facility is the last building in operation on a large county-owned parcel where the Oakland County Marine Division and Oakland County Sheriff’s boot camp were once housed, to name a few. When OCACPAC is moved, the county will be able to sell the land and return it to the tax roll. The Brown Road property is estimated to have a current market value of as much as $4.5 million.

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