As costs go up, Cedar City Council delays decision on $1.46 million bid for animal shelter

A dog in a kennel at the current Cedar City Animal Shelter, Cedar City, Utah, March 14, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY – Although the Cedar City’s new Animal Shelter and Adoption Center held its ceremonial groundbreaking March 5, no ground has actually been broken yet.

After months of delays, including waiting for final architectural plans, the City Council has opted to wait at least another month to decide whether to move ahead with the proposed project. After a 45-minute discussion during Wednesday night’s council meeting, the matter was tabled until September.

Winning bid over budget

Sign shows an architectural rendering of proposed Cedar City Animal Adoption Shelter, Cedar City, Utah, March 5, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Cedar City, St. George News / Cedar City News

Much of the discussion has focused on the proposed facility’s cost. Although the city already received approval for $1.2 million in Community Impact Board funds for the project, all three of the bids the city received before the Aug. 10 deadline exceed that amount.

Grass Creek Construction, based in Washington County, was the lowest of the three bidders at $1.550 million, Cedar City Police Chief Darin Adams told the City Council during its Aug. 15 work session. Grass Creek outbid both Carter Enterprises’ $1.726 million bid and Zwick Construction’s bid of $1.676 million.

Wednesday evening, Adams was joined by Grass Creek owner Spencer Richins and Garrett Sullivan of CRSA, the firm doing the architectural designs, as they answered questions from council members.

Richins told the council the company’s revised bid now stands at $1.459 million, after going through and applying “value engineering” or cost-cutting measures to certain aspects of the project, such as using galvanized chain link fencing instead of stainless steel in the animal enclosures, removing a vestibule in front section of the building and finding a less expensive hose system for washing out the kennels.

Tina Garrison gives a tour of current Cedar City Animal Shelter, Cedar City, Utah, March 14, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

But even after trimming nearly $100,000 from the winning bid, the project is still approximately $259,000 over its originally anticipated budget, city officials noted Wednesday.

The substantial increase in the project’s cost poses a dilemma for the city, City Council member Scott Phillips told Cedar City News prior to Wednesday’s meeting.

“It’s really in kind of a Catch-22 right now,” Phillips said. “We either need to figure out a way to raise more money for this and then … bite the bullet and do it. The other option is that we’re looking at is putting it on hold for six months or a year to see if the costs of construction might go down.”

Phillips added that it was a priority for the city, saying that the existing facility has reached a “critical point.”

“If we don’t do something, whatever that something is, we’re going to be in a terrible situation,” he said. “I think we’re going to have to move forward on it because if we don’t, I think it’s going to end up costing perhaps more money in the long run.”

During Wednesday’s meeting, Phillips repeated these sentiments.

“I don’t think anybody questions the need, or the fact it should be done. It’s the right thing to do. We’re just trying to wrap our heads around how we’re going to get it all done.”

Ultimately, the City Council agreed to table the issue and place it on its agenda for the Sept. 5 work session and its Sept. 19 regular meeting. If no decision is reached by that point, the project would have to be re-bid, city officials noted, saying there is a 45-day window to accept the winning bid.

Phillips said the city would lose money already spent architectural costs if the project is abandoned or even postponed, since those design plans would likely have to be redone later.

City Council member Paul Cozzens, who was out of town Wednesday but participated in the meeting via telephone, said despite the cost-cutting efforts made, he doesn’t feel the price has gone down enough.

Cat cages at current Cedar City Animal Shelter, Cedar City, Utah, March 14, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“I agree we need a new animal shelter, but not at that price,” Cozzens told Cedar City News prior to Wednesday’s meeting. “That’s just way too much for an animal shelter.”

Cozzens, who won the Republican primary election in June for a seat on the Iron County Commission, said the city should also look into possibly partnering with the county on the project, even though county officials previously declined to do so.

Can project be trimmed down further?

During Wednesday’s meeting, Phillips asked if the facility would be sufficient enough to meet the community’s needs for the next 40-50 years.

“I just want to make sure that in an effort to value engineer this building, we’re not destroying the building,” Phillips said, adding, “I want to make sure that we’re not taking the guts out of it so there’s nothing left but a hollow shell.”

Chief Adams previously told the council members he didn’t believe there was much more room for cost-cutting.

“I earnestly do not believe that we can value engineer this project further to cut the desired costs,” Adams stated in the summary document he shared with the council Aug. 15. “I am concerned that if we reduce the square footage further or reduce amenities within the shelter, we would be producing a facility that would need serious attention in the near future as we continue to grow.”

During his presentation last week, Adams had said he had no recommendations for the council but said he was seeking the council’s input “as we collectively consider our options and make a decision that is in the best interest of our fellow citizens and our animal population.”

Possible funding solutions

Cedar City Animal Control Officer Wyatt Duffey, Cedar City, Utah, April 27, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Funding solutions that have been suggested include possibly asking for more money from the Community Impact Board, using funds from the city’s capital reserves and soliciting private donations.

Phillips said that even though only about $10,000 in private donations have been raised or pledged thus far, he believes much more can be raised.

“I feel relatively confident that in the next year, we can raise $300,000 to $400,000,” Phillips told Cedar City News before Wednesday’s meeting, adding that he and other fundraising committee members have spoken to several businesses and individuals that have indicated they would contribute once plans have been finalized.

“It’s a little bit of the chicken and the egg – they’re waiting to see what we’re going to do and we go ahead and say yes, we’re 100 percent behind this and they’re going to come and support it,” Phillips said.

Raising such a substantial amount, Phillips said, would help bring the project back to or even under its original budget.

“We have to decide if we’re willing to spend that kind of money, we can soften the blow by raising $300,000 to $400,000. Then we’re back to the original amount of money we’re talking about, a little bit less than that, actually.”

Enoch’s less-expensive shelter

Another issue raised during Wednesday’s meeting was the fact that Enoch City is currently building its own animal shelter, which Adams said has 18 dog kennels and two small cat rooms in nearly 2,400 square feet of floor space for a budget of $160,000.

Cedar’s planned facility, by comparison, is projected to be 5,000 square feet  at a cost of more than $1.4 million.

Tina Garrison gives tour of dog kennels at current Cedar City Animal Shelter, Cedar City, Utah, March 14, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“Something like that wouldn’t work for us,” Adams said. “They don’t have near the intake and near the population.”

Adams said part of the reason Enoch is able to do it so cheaply is because its own public works department is doing a large share of the labor on the project.

Cedar City Manager Paul Bittmenn said if Cedar’s own public works department were to devote itself to the animal shelter, it could end up costing the city more money than it would save, due to the other larger projects the department is currently busy with. There would also be issues regarding liability and insurance, he said.

But when Cedar City Mayor Maile Wilson-Edwards asked Richins if his company would be open to the idea of using city-provided materials and resources to help reduce costs, Richins replied, “As long as it conforms to the spec and what we were being held to, of course we would.”

Other citizen concerns

Cedar City resident Bruce Hughes also commented, saying the city should also factor in operation and maintenance costs when considering the animal shelter plans.

“I think the city is foolish to do a project of this magnitude without an O&M budget, and I wouldn’t recommend that,” Hughes said, citing the city’s own aquatic center as an example.

“We have the aquatic center in great trouble because we didn’t ever have an O&M budget,” he said, “and so we are looking at how we can steal from Peter to pay Paul.”

A cat’s microchip is read with a sensor at current Cedar City Animal Shelter, Cedar City, Utah, March 14, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Hughes said he believed the public needs to see an operations and maintenance budget to know what the year-to-year cost of the shelter will be.

Another commenter, Brad Green, told the council he feels it’s an “inopportune” time for the project.

“It’s silly that I’m the guy that brings this up because I do not want to douse the flame of construction in our community. But as a guy who has a significant interest in a local construction company, it’s a really bad time to build right now,” Green said.

“I would recommend that the council consider waiting until the marketplace corrects, which actually will to some extent and the price is more reasonable because it’s really not right now.”

Other commenters Wednesday suggested buying and renovating an existing building or trying to raise money via a Kickstarter-type online fundraiser.

A ‘dream come true’

Cedar City Animal Shelter assistant Tina Garrison told Cedar City News earlier she sees the proposed facility as a “dream come true.”

“We’ve been needing this for years,” Garrison said during a recent tour of the city’s current shelter, which consists of an office and a storage building with kennels filled with dogs and cats in cramped quarters, including small closet-like rooms with little or no ventilation.

Garrison said the new building’s planned 5,000 square feet of usable space will be more than triple the size of the current shelter’s 1,300 square feet. The proposed building’s location is just a short distance east of the current shelter, on the south or opposite side of Kitty Hawk Drive.

Garrison said she hopes more people will make charitable contributions for the new building.

“We’ve got a lot of people who love animals in this town,” she said.

For more information about the proposed shelter or to make a tax-deductible donation, click here.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.


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  • fcpbean August 24, 2018 at 11:26 am

    Someone help me understand. In Cedar City you can build a 5000 sq/ft house on a quarter acre for just a little over $100 per square foot. Why would it cost nearly 3 times that much to build a government building?

    • Mike P August 25, 2018 at 9:22 am

      Simple ! Government buildings are paid for with Taxpayer money.

    • tazzman August 25, 2018 at 1:24 pm

      You answered your own question: it’s a government building and the bidding resulted in three choices that were all over budget.

      They need to go back to the drawing board and pick a choice that is less expensive.

    • Harve August 26, 2018 at 7:35 am

      Every new shelter spells failure. Failure to bring the pet overpopulation under control. How many do we have to build? You build it and they will come. Offer spay/neuter and make that easy for people, and they stop coming. Get it?

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