Citrus County Commission Hears Plan For New Animal Shelter

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On April 13, a preliminary needs assessment, feasibility, and cost study for the construction of a new animal shelter in Citrus County was presented by an architect from Bacon Group, Inc.

Citrus County Commissioner Ruthie Schlabach said that addressing the state of the current animal shelter in Citrus has been at the forefront of her campaign.

Schlabach said that a new animal shelter is necessary and wanted by the community.

“So, our shelter in Citrus County it was built in the ’70s. It is over 50 years old. It is outdated in every sense of the word. But the conditions are so poor that for circulation, for safety, it’s just not good for our animals, for our staff, it’s not good for our volunteers.”

Rick Bacon, architect with the Bacon Group, gave a presentation showing the cost estimates and design options. The estimated cost for a new animal shelter is $11.5 million dollars.

For $11.5 million, Citrus County’s new animal shelter would be approximately a 33,000-square-foot facility. The addition of a new animal shelter in the county would also require the county to add several more employees to staff the shelter.

Commissioner Jeff Kinnard said he was concerned and surprised about the high price tag.

“Well, when we gave the architect the budget of 6 to 8 million dollars, I expected the renderings to come back in a 6 to 8 million figure. So, the price tag of 11.5 million was surprising to me.”

However, Citrus Animal Services Director Colleen Yarbrough was not surprised at the high estimated cost.

“It did not surprise me at all. I was well prepared for that price tag; I have been in animal welfare for over 20 years. So, I knew that would be the price range for us.”

“The price tag is a lot. Especially for Citrus County. But I feel it is important. We all know that people look to move to animal-friendly communities and a shelter that is more welcoming.”

Commissioners asked Bacon to produce another version in order to reduce the estimated cost to about $8 million or less. Commissioners also asked about the possibility of fixing up the current shelter instead of building a new one.

At the meeting, many audience members voiced their desires to see the development of a brand-new shelter in Citrus County. Some audience members even volunteering to fundraise and donate.

Schlabach and Commissioner Holly Davis both stressed that Citrus County should step up fundraising efforts and engage the community to help pay for a new shelter.

“We’ve already got 1 .5 million dollars in donations. So, we are at 6.5 million now. So, I think that is very doable.”

Davis also agreed that a new animal shelter is needed.

“Not only do we need a new shelter, but we need to do it right. If we are going to build a shelter, we need to build it right.”

This issue will continue to be brought up in the agenda for future meetings until a solution is reached.

About Isabella Witkowich

Isabella is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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