About that addition to the county animal shelter: It isn't finished yet

J. H. Osborne • Aug 12, 2018 at 8:30 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Last week, social media lit up with questions and some downright attacks against Sullivan County officials over ongoing work to add space to the Sullivan County Animal Shelter.

The centerpiece of dismay: a modular unit, formerly used as a classroom at Colonial Heights Middle School, that officials placed in front of the shelter facility. Critics, many of whom self-identify as animal rights advocates and shelter volunteers, immediately found fault with the structure — its appearance, where it was placed, its cinder block foundation and lack of a porch or steps.

It has just been moved to the site. The county isn’t finished with the project. And it wasn’t a surprise.

County officials have publicly stated their goal was to add a new administrative and visitors area which would serve as a new main entrance to the shelter. And they said they planned to start by locating a used modular unit in front of the current facility.The goal is threefold: Get the offices and visitors’ first impressions out of the main facility where the animals are kept; in turn, free up space within the shelter to add room for cats; and eliminate a “bottleneck” that is the current entrance — which is narrow and often can have incoming animals, outgoing animals, volunteers, employees and potential adopters all mingling in close quarters.

According to public records, the school system gave the modular unit to the county, which spent about $5,000 to pay a contractor to move it from the school to the shelter and to place it on the foundation. The exact spot was determined by how best to avoid power lines and in-ground pipes that service the main facility.

Much of the rest of the work will be performed by county maintenance staff, who are also busy on other projects. But the list of things to be done now to the much maligned modular unit include: power-washing and painting the exterior; gutting the interior; and installing new floors and new partitions. Outside work to be done includes: construction of ADA-compliant access to the unit’s entrance; the addition of underpinning; and the enclosure of what is now an open area between the modular unit and the front door of the shelter.

Work on the modular unit is expected to take a couple of weeks and cost another $5,000.

The information above is based on a public discussion of the issue by multiple officials during a Sullivan County Budget Committee meeting on Thursday.

During that meeting, Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski asked if the county would like to have any more modular units because the school system has several available.

Commissioner Angie Stanley said she had taken the time to go to the animal shelter to see for herself what was up with the modular unit.

Stanley indicated she was pleased with what she saw.

“It’s a big improvement from what we’ve got,” Stanley said, adding she had also toured the main shelter and found it to be clean throughout.

Having workers on the scene explain to her how the plan calls for enclosing the current entrance area (roughly following the path of a current awning) helped her gain enthusiasm for the concept.