Though the shoveling of dirt at a groundbreaking for the Macon-Bibb County animal shelter Friday was symbolic, it reiterated Bibb County officials’ desire to get it built as soon as possible.
Last month, commissioners decided to break ground on the new shelter and clear trees on the 10-acre site to get the building process going, even though the architectural plans haven’t been completed yet. Officials hope those plans will be finished by the time the land has been cleared.
“This is something we’ve been looking forward to,” commission Chairman Sam Hart said at the event. “This is the beginning. We’re going to move some trees and get started with building the building.”
The $3 million facility -- paid for with money from a special purpose local option sales tax -- will replace the current, antiquated shelter that the county inherited from the city when it took over the shelter operations in July 2012. The new shelter will be located just off Fulton Mill Road in west Bibb.
Animal Welfare Director Sarah Tenon said design plans are “85 to 90 percent” complete for the new building, which officials hope will be open about a year from now.
Tenon said she visited five other animal shelters in Georgia and Florida to see which design elements worked best to help the shelters run efficiently.
“We’re tweaking (the design) right now,” she said. “We’ve identified all of the spaces we’ll need and are getting them fit into the design of the building. The community will be very pleased.”
Tenon said the animal shelter in Pensacola, Fla., provided ideas for the Bibb County shelter, such as an onsite spay/neuter clinic.
“We wanted to make sure it has an open foyer that’s very inviting and can accommodate the people who come in,” she said. “The spay/neuter clinic was very user-friendly.”
In her public remarks at the groundbreaking, Tenon noted that having a larger, more modern facility won’t be a cure-all for the community’s animal overpopulation.
In addition to housing the animals, Tenon said she wants to run education and community programs such as spaying and neutering education that she’s already in the process of putting into place.
Commissioner Lonzy Edwards, chairman of the committee that’s overseeing the building of the shelter, said the effort has been a partnership between the government and the community, which approved the SPLOST in part because it contained money to build a new shelter.
“I’m very excited, very happy,” he said. “The only day I’ll be happier is when we actually get into the building. It shows the community is serious about helping animals. (The shelter) won’t solve the problem, but it’s a great beginning. We’re looking forward to making it the best we can make it. ... This is much-needed. If you have any doubt, look at what we’ve got now.”
The current shelter -- near Macon’s landfill -- is cramped, dingy and aging. The nearly 35-year-old shelter has battled problems of rodent and roach infestations in recent years.
The planned new shelter will offer more space to accommodate more animals, meeting rooms and a design to make it easier for residents to view and adopt pets. The facility also will have walking trails on the grounds for people and animals.
Felicia Haywood, who helped get a dog park built near Tattnall Square Park, hopes a similar park also will be built on the new shelter grounds.
“I want to get an off-leash dog park started here,” said Haywood, who took her dog Scamper to Friday’s event. “(The new shelter) is going to transform the whole world for stray animals in the community. It will help save dogs’ and cats’ lives. It will make it much easier to adopt stray animals.”
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.