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New Fresno County animal shelter may require a move

A small dog stares out from its cage in the barn at Liberty Animal Control on Monday, June 1, 2015 in Fresno, California.Liberty Animal Control, which had contracted with Fresno County, has filed for bankruptcy. County officials who want to build a new shelter may soon look for other options since land near its current location (the old coroner’s office near downtown Fresno) is becoming increasingly difficult to acquire.
A small dog stares out from its cage in the barn at Liberty Animal Control on Monday, June 1, 2015 in Fresno, California.Liberty Animal Control, which had contracted with Fresno County, has filed for bankruptcy. County officials who want to build a new shelter may soon look for other options since land near its current location (the old coroner’s office near downtown Fresno) is becoming increasingly difficult to acquire. ezamora@fresnobee.com

Fresno County officials are considering whether to move their animal shelter to a new location since plans to expand at the existing site near downtown Fresno have ground to a halt.

The county has been trying to cut a deal for needed property next to the existing shelter at Teilman and Nielsen avenues, but negotiations have stalled. The site for the future animal control facility is 1.3 acres.

So now the county has begun looking at other options.

Possibilities for a new shelter include property where the county’s Juvenile Justice Center is located south of Malaga, and land owned by the Ridenour family (Derrel’s Mini-Storage) near Grantland Avenue along Highway 99 in northwest Fresno.

The county already owns the property at the Juvenile Justice Center site and has more than 100 acres to build on. Derrel Ridenour said he would consider donating land for an animal shelter. His family is preparing a proposal for the county.

“I look at this as an opportunity for a good change for the animals,” Ridenour said.

County Administrative Officer John Navarrette said supervisors have told him to expand the number of properties for a potential animal shelter site since the Teilman site doesn’t have a willing seller, and to consider price, freeway access and existing zoning.

He said the board will be given several options and could consider them as early as August.

The existing county shelter is next to the site of the former county coroner’s office. It houses dogs, and except for an aluminum building to house some animals, many of the dogs are exposed to outdoor elements during summer and winter.

We have to go somewhere, and where we are doesn’t work anymore

Supervisor Henry R. Perea

The county will get about $11.8 million in one-time money from the state in July. Part of that money — about $3 million — is expected to be dedicated to building a new animal shelter, Supervisor Henry R. Perea said.

Perea views the Juvenile Justice Center site as an opportunity for the county to save time and money, while offering troubled youths a job caring for dogs while they are jailed.

The county “won’t have to worry about the cost of land, and construction can begin immediately,” Perea said. “We have to go somewhere, and where we are doesn’t work anymore.”

He also embraces Ridenour’s proposal: “There is no question Derrel’s property will still be in the mix.”

Since the county owns the property at the site of the old coroner’s office, that land could be sold, too, Perea said.

Supervisor Buddy Mendes, whose district includes the Juvenile Justice Center, said negotiation for the land near the coroner’s office will likely require an eminent domain process, which requires property appraisals and additional negotiations.

Mendes said the land at the Juvenile Justice Center has highway access and could make a good animal shelter site.

“I would look at it with a very open mind,” Mendes said. “We have a problem (with the existing animal control site), so we have to look at how we can get it fixed in a timely manner.”

Fresno County Probation Chief Rick Chavez said there are no immediate plans at the Juvenile Justice Center.

“We were originally master planned out there for Juvenile Justice Center beds, but juvenile crime is trending down and we don’t need more beds out there,” he said. “It’s a very interesting possibility that we could develop a vocational program around dog care…I’m all in on looking at those options.”

But not everybody is ready to buy into the Juvenile Justice Center idea.

“I prefer something more centrally located than the Juvenile Justice Center,” said board Chairwoman Debbie Poochigian. “I like the old site, but for many reasons it might not work out. I am anticipating staff will come back with several options.”

She said many residents who use the animal shelter are in county islands near Fresno and Clovis and just beyond the city limits of both cities.

“You want it to be convenient for the people that are using the facility,” Poochigian said.

The push to build at the Teilman site came from the county board that included previous Supervisors Judy Case McNairy and Phil Larson. Poochigian said it’s a good idea to gain the insights of the new supervisors, Mendes and Brian Pacheco.

“It’s just unfortunate we can’t build the facility we would like with what we have on Teilman,” Poochigian said.

Pacheco said he doesn’t favor acquiring anyone’s property through eminent domain.

Supervisor Andreas Borgeas said the county owns numerous properties that could serve as animal shelters, so he is not ready to jump to any conclusions until he can examine all the options.

Marc Benjamin: 559-441-6166, @beebenjamin

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