A split vote approved a motion at a rare Tuesday morning town council meeting that could leave taxpayers with an additional $343,000 bill to pay for a new animal shelter in Bristol.In 2008, voters approved a $2 million bond for a new shelter, but officials have struggled to stay within that budget. Last month officials opened bids for the work and discovered that none was within the $2 million price range.
Now Bristol residents could be on the hook for additional funding.
“No bond referendum has ever been true to the amount,” said Bristol Town Council Chairman Ken Marshall. “It’s easy to say we’re not going to spend one dollar over budget, but we do it on a regular basis.
“A lot of cuts have been made. An argument could be made to cut more.”
But more cuts to the facility, say its supporters, would take away from its intended purpose to give the community a state-of-the-art no kill shelter.
Mr. Marshall recommended to move the project forward rather than hold the project to budget.
Councilors Halsey Herreshoff and Tony Teixeira opposed the additional expenditure.
“I have some discomfort with this,” said Mr. Herreshoff. “The citizens did vote for $2 million.”
Mr. Herreshoff agreed that the current shelter is in such a state of disrepair that a new shelter is necessary. But, he contended, an adequate shelter, similar to what was built in Providence, could be built for $1.2 million.
Sandy Chabot, challenged Mr. Herreshoff’s perspective.
“It could have been built four years ago for the amount of the bond. I hope you recognize that you can’t buy a gallon of milk for the same price as it was four years ago,” she said.
It was understood that the non-profit group Friends of the Bristol Animal Shelter would continue their fund-raising through a capital campaign once the project is underway. The group hopes to raise the $343,000 through donations and pledges. It has already raised $155,000, but spent $50,000 on a design. If the nonprofit fund-raising falls short, the town could cover the gap; that measure would have to go to a public hearing.
Without the town’s financial backing, the project would not be able to move forward given the shortfall between construction bids and bond money.
“What we’re authorizing is to move forward,” Mr. Marshall said. “Until a shovel is in the ground the money is just sitting there.”
Mr. Marshall, David Barboza and Mary Parella approved the motion.
Still not enough?
But even the available $2,343,000 may not be enough to cover the cost of site work and construction.
Animal shelter project committee vice chairman John Lannon said with contingency fees, the cost could escalate to $2,529,000, a fact that Mr. Marshall said he is aware of. The project components will go out for a re-bid in an attempt to stay at or close to budget.
Resident Peter Hewett also spoke against obligating town funds for the project.
“If there was ever a project that calls for shared services, this is it. I think $2 million is plenty for a decent dog house,” he said.