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County must borrow more to build animal shelter; groundbreaking now scheduled for June 15

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By AJ Vicens

The weak economy and an “unrealistic fund-raising timeline” have forced the county to borrow more money for the Table Mountain Animal Center project, according to the shelter’s spokesman.

“It was never realistic for us to reach $3 million in actual money by the time they break ground,” said Ben Drotar, TMAC spokesman. “With the current economic climate, and the problems that pretty much happened at the end of October, that threw a little wrench in the spokes.”

The shelter serves Jefferson County, Arvada, Lakewood, Wheat Ridge, Westminster and Golden as an animal control facility and offers reduced-cost animal care and pet adoption.

County and TMAC officials last fall announced plans for a new $9 million, 30,000-square-foot shelter at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds. The cost was to be split three ways: $3 million from the county’s general fund, $3 million from a loan against future dog-licensing revenues, and $3 million from the TMAC Foundation. But the foundation hasn’t been able to raise the money, forcing the county to finance $5.2 million.

County Commissioner Kevin McCasky said last October that groundbreaking would take place Jan. 1, but that has been pushed back to June 15.

Drotar said the $1.5 million is a “more realistic goal” for the foundation and can be raised by the end of 2009.

Dog-licensing revenues have been strong over the last few years, according to the Jeffco Sheriff’s Office. In 2006, there were 16,109 dog licenses issued and $134,550 in revenue collected. In 2007, the number of licenses issued doubled to more than 32,000, and $350,338 was collected. In 2008, the county issued 34,022 licenses and collected $538,758. The sheriff’s office projects that the county’s dog license revenue will continue to go up, with an estimated $732,000 in 2011.

Drotar said it will ultimately benefit the foundation if it must work harder to raise funds.

“It’s actually good for the organization,” he said. “If we end up widening our donor base, when the capacities of individuals come back to where they were or go to a higher level, that’s people that have been included in our organization. Those are efforts we needed to expand anyway.”

He also said McCasky’s push for a Jan. 1 groundbreaking was a bit surprising to TMAC staff and the architects who gathered Oct. 1.

“When he said that, there was a major pucker factor,” Drotar said.

McCasky has his own take.

“I’m not going to address a matter with a staff member of the foundation in the newspaper,” McCasky said. “The county and the member governments of TMAC are embarking on a mission here. This project will be done. We’re ecstatic that we have such a wonderful partner in the animal center foundation. They’re on a mission to raise money … and any other comments are unproductive and detrimental to the cause.”

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com, and check www.columbinecourier.com for updates and breaking news.