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$22 million bond for new Pima County animal shelter will be on November ballot

Pima County voters will get to decide this fall whether to spend $22 million to build a new animal shelter.

It is the only county bond project voters will have on the November ballot.

The Pima County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved putting the project on the ballot at Tuesday’s meeting, despite concerns from Supervisor Ally Miller about some of the costs associated with building a new facility.

The vote comes almost two weeks after 35 dogs were moved to a large tent erected near the Animal Care Center, 4000 N. Silverbell Road, to temporarily ease overcrowding.

The tent will eventually house 96 dog kennels within the next few weeks, county officials said.

The shelter currently has 235 dog kennels, along with 120 kennels and cages for cats.

However, there are about 520 dogs and more than 240 cats at the shelter.

The Pima County Bond Advisory Committee requested the measure, giving it priority over more than 130 bonds submitted by various agencies under active consideration of the committee.

The measure also had support from the Pima Animal Care Center’s Advisory Board and the Board of Health.

County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry recommended the bond election in a memo he sent to the supervisors a few weeks ago.

At Tuesday’s meeting, shelter workers and volunteers reminded the supervisors of the chronic overcrowding and, later, thanked them for calling the election.

State Rep. Victoria Steele, D-Tucson, and Rep. Ethan Orr, R-Tucson, both spoke at the meeting, showing their support for the project.

Orr attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new tent a few weeks ago.

Although Miller voted for the measure, she said her vote wasn’t an endorsement of the election and questioned some of the costs. “It is up to the voters to decide, and that’s why I support putting this on the ballot, because it’s not my decision to support,” Miller said.

Miller questioned the costs for hiring consultants — listed as $3 million — and permitting fees.

The facility “needs to be upgraded. I agree with that 100 percent,” she said. “I believe it should move forward, but I’m just concerned after I saw this cost breakdown.”

Huckelberry said the cost model presented to the supervisors was based from 2009, and included inflation and contingency costs.

If the bond passes, county officials will do extensive research on animal shelters around the country to see what’s needed to build a state-of-the-art facility, he said.

Huckelberry was confident the county would keep the costs at or below $22 million.

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