The Fulton Mill Road site chosen for Bibb Countys new animal shelter drew strong opposition Monday night from residents with concerns ranging from noise and unpleasant odors to reduced property values.
How can you come to a neighborhood? Mike Ratterree asked at the town hall meeting at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. You need to figure out somewhere else to build. Its going to be in my front yard. Ill wake up every day and look at a dog pound. ... Whos going to buy a house next to a dog pound?
Acting on a recommendation from a citizens committee, the county commission voted last week to build the shelter on county-owned property so that more of the $3 million in sales tax funds earmarked for the project could be put into designing, building and equipping the new facility.
We wanted to get the best bang for the dollars, said Commission Chairman Sam Hart.
Residents got a first look at preliminary designs of the shelter from architect Gene Dunwody, who said the new shelter, through design and help for rescue groups, could lower the shelters euthanasia rate from 50 percent to closer to 10 percent. The shelter is expected to handle from 3,600 to 4,000 animals each year.
The way you get participation from volunteers is you dont put it near a city dump, Dunwody said, referring to the dilapidated current building that the county took over from the city in July.
Dunwody also tried to ease concerns about property values.
If we do the job we think we can do, we dont think it will have a negative effect on your property values, he said.
Commissioner Lonzy Edwards, chairman of the site selection committee, said a number of sites were considered but disqualified because of cost and environmental concerns.
The Fulton Mill Road property is part of a 600-acre site that was purchased in the 1990s for a once planned state prison hospital that never materialized. The land was turned over to the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority to market for development.
The bottom line is we have a need, and we have this land that has sat there for 18 years, said Edwards. Our hope is this might jump-start other uses for the land.
Commissioner Joe Allen, who represents the Fulton Mill Road site, set up Mondays town hall meeting after receiving almost two dozen calls from concerned residents. Audience members submitted questions on cards that Allen and other officials tried to answer.
The exact location has not been chosen, they said. The county is in discussions with the industrial authority about using 10 acres from a 129-acre tract.
We said we wanted a site that was visible. We wanted a site that was accessible. We wanted a site that was affordable, said Edwards.
Dunwody said the new facility will be designed to encourage cleanliness and prevent the outbreak of disease among the animals. It will also feature adoption areas and include room to expand.
Hart said the 10-acre site also could include a dog park and a walking track for residents. The chairman said the new facility could be something we can brag about, something we can build on.
Though the site has been approved, the vote is not necessarily final, Allen said.
Anything can be undone, he said. Its up to people to change peoples mind.
One resident questioned the location, saying it should be closer to the city and would cost the county an enormous amount in transportation. Another said 95 percent of the people in the neighborhood agreed with Ratterrees not-in-my-backyard sentiment.
After the meeting, Ratterree had softened his stance somewhat, provided the shelter is built far enough off Fulton Mill Road.
If they would let me go down there and let me choose where they go, I wont have a problem with it, he said. Something like that doesnt need to be on the road.
Should the vote stand, Hart said, the new shelter could be built in 14 months. Dunwody said he plans to hold public hearings to get input on the final design.