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Derrel’s Mini-Storage owner offers $3 million to build county animal shelter

Hectic days at the Fresno County animal shelter

See the scene at the Fresno County animal shelter as the Animal Compassion Team takes over operations in October 2015.
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See the scene at the Fresno County animal shelter as the Animal Compassion Team takes over operations in October 2015.

Fresno County supervisors say they’re willing to accept an offer from businessman Derrel Ridenour for $3 million and free land in northwest Fresno for a new county animal shelter – but they first want to see what he has in mind before they seal the deal.

Ridenour’s offer would double the amount of money the county initially committed for a shelter to replace the existing temporary facility near downtown Fresno. But Ridenour, owner of Derrel’s Mini-Storage, wants to lead development of plans for the shelter, and warned on Tuesday during the Board of Supervisors meeting that it could cost more than the county would like.

Some county supervisors worried that Ridenour’s shelter site, on about four acres he owns near Grantland Avenue and Highway 99, would not be centrally located, and that shelter costs could eat into money set aside for other county projects. Supervisors voted to keep the project at $6 million or less.

Supervisors also will consider a county-owned site on the Juvenile Justice Center campus near Malaga. Board Chairman Buddy Mendes said he prefers the Juvenile Justice Center site because of its location.

Supervisor Henry Perea said any information gleaned from a study of the Grantland site would likely fit at the Juvenile Justice Center.

“We’re not making final decisions other than to say move forward with this,” said Perea, who started discussions with Ridenour more than a year ago.

Ridenour’s preference is a shelter and adoption center of 24,000 square feet. But at a cost of $400 per square foot, his preferred facility could reach $9 million or more. He said an advisory board will figure out the size and budget for a new facility.

The county needs a shelter and they won’t get too many chances to get the land and $3 million.

Derrel Ridenour, donor for new county animal control shelter

“The county needs a shelter and they won’t get too many chances to get the land and $3 million,” he said.

Supervisor Debbie Poochigian said she was concerned about the cost and if the remaining amount fell to the county to pay it could jeopardize construction of a Sheriff’s Office substation in southeast Fresno and a new site for the District Attorney’s Office.

Supervisor Brian Pacheco said the type of facility and its size eventually will be determined by the board’s philosophy.

“Mr. Ridenour will not donate to a bare-bones facility,” he said. “If you don’t want to do it the right way, the best-practice way … then he’s not interested.”

Brenda Mitchell, president of Fresno Humane Animal Services, the contractor that operates the county’s animal shelter at Nielsen and Teilman avenues, said the Grantland Avenue location helps their organization because of its proximity to the HOPE Animal Foundation spay/neuter clinic near Herndon and Polk avenues.

Ridenour also was the primary financial backer for the HOPE project, which has altered about 125,000 pets in the past decade.

He said a visitor-friendly adoption center is imperative.

Mr. Ridenour will not donate to a bare-bones facility. If you don’t want to do it the right way, the best-practice way … then he’s not interested.

Brian Pacheco, Fresno County supervisor

Only 3 percent of animals at the county shelter get adopted, but Fresno Humane has significantly cut euthanasia rates. About 75 percent of the dogs are sent to rescues, not just locally but around the country, Mitchell said.

“Derrel’s offer is amazing,” she said. “It’s the next step in taking Fresno County to the place where we need to be.”

In other action

▪ Residents of El Porvenir’s water service area voted against a rate increase. They could face a similar problem as Cantua Creek did in 2015 when residents opposed a rate hike. Their vote could lead to their water being cut off. The $5-a-month rate increase would have raised the monthly fee to about $115 per household.

The 58-lot community south of Mendota gets its water from Westlands Water District, which charges a rate ordered by the federal Bureau of Reclamation. Supervisors approved writing a letter to the Bureau of Reclamation asking that they cut the rate for an amount needed to serve El Porvenir.

Under state law, the county is unable to subsidize a county service area.

▪ Supervisors supported seeking options to allow for increased cutting of dead trees in the Sierra. County officials say the county has tens of thousands of dead trees along 1,100 miles of roadway that will require a firebreak. Clearing the trees could cost $100 million, said David Pomaville, the county public health director.

Marc Benjamin: 559-441-6166, @beebenjamin

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