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Preliminary designs for new Longview animal shelter released

By Richard Yeakley
Oct. 29, 2013 at 11 p.m.


Animal advocates from a variety of camps shared ideas and concerns Tuesday during a meeting in which they also got a first look at preliminary designs for a new Longview shelter.

Residents gave feedback about a host of topics on the new city animal shelter, including the location, size, layout, management, funding and future expansion of the facility.

Austin architect Larry Connolly also presented a conceptual design of the facility during the about an hour-and-a-half-long meeting.

"The purpose of this tonight is to get public input. This is just a preliminary look at what we got," said City Manager David Willard. "We are interested in your comments. I know the City Council, many of them are here, they want to listen to your comments as well because at some point in the process this final design will be presented to them and they will make their decisions as far as what to do going forward."

In designing the new shelter, Connolly has used property that the Humane Society of Northeast Texas has promised to donate to the city for construction of the facility. The group runs the animal shelter with which the city has a contract.

The 4.3-acre piece of land is just north of Lear Park on H.G. Mosley Parkway.

According to the preliminary design, the new facility would be oriented at an angle to the parkway and be shaped in the form of an "H." The side nearest the thoroughfare would house the public portion of the shelter, including a public education/training room with space for up to 50 people, animal drop off, customer service counter and dog and cat adoption areas.

Two hallways would connect the public area to the facility's private area, which would include a stray dog area, dog and cat isolation and quarantine areas, an examination room, offices, storage and an area for spaying and neutering animals before they are released from the shelter.

Connolly said the just more than 20,000-square-foot facility would feature a public/private separation; internal and external visibility, using glass so animals can be seen at most times; and intuitive wayfinding, a process by which customers can find what they are looking for without asking.

"This is going to be a very transparent exercise, much like the building," Connolly said. "A feature in this facility that is different from the ones that were built 25 years ago is that as soon as you walk in there is a really long sight line."

<h3>Location</h3>

Willard attempted to focus conversation on the design of the shelter and not its location at the beginning of the meeting, but several residents took the opportunity to weigh in on the tract of land.

"This is not the final location until (the Humane Society of Northeast Texas) chooses to send a deed over to the city and the City Council accepts that, but right now that is the only property that has been offered up or is available," Willard said. "I know there has been a lot of discussion ... about locations and where's the best location ... but tonight is not the night necessarily to talk about location per se."

Connolly, however, began his presentation talking about the benefits of the property.

"What would you rather have a good building on? A bad piece of dirt or a bad building on a good piece of dirt?" Connolly said. "You'd much rather have the bad building on a good piece of dirt because you can always make the building better."

He added that visibility and accessibility were important as were neighboring properties, which in the case of the Kermit Street property lies near Lear Park.

Local attorney Kelly Heitkamp questioned members of the Humane Society of Northeast Texas if their donation was free and clear or if there would be provisions attached to the land.

During the course of the meeting, Humane Society of Northeast Texas Executive Director Scott Holloway answered that it would be a pure donation as long as the land is used to build a shelter and that ground is broken by the start of 2015, which he said is a reasonable time frame.

Mike Nolte questioned if the location was heavily-trafficked and convenient enough for many Longview residents, and Victoria Wilson said the project might make sense closer to the Interstate 20 Corridor thoroughfare.

Local veterinarian Tom Armstrong said the location might be beneficial because it is not in the most busy corridors.

District 1 Councilman John Sims said that while he had liked other properties for the shelter, residents should either come together behind the humane society's property or donate land because it is unlikely the city will buy any property for the shelter, already priced at $5 million.

"I have been working on this thing five years now. It has been something I have thought the city needed, and finally it looks like we are going to get it," he said. "If someone will come forward and donate some land, the council will not approve buying any land, I can tell you that right now ... Let's all get together on the humane society land, or somebody come forward and donate enough land."

<h3>Size</h3>

Kristen Ishihara, chairwoman of the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee, and several others asked questions concerning the size of the facility.

Connolly said the preliminary design of the structure, which contains about 20 adult dog adoption displays, 10 puppy displays and about a dozen cat adoption displays, was over-sized for the expected pet population.

The proposed design includes three options for further expansion of the facility if needed.

The facility was designed using data contributed by the Humane Society of Northeast Texas as well as from data from the city of Longview and Gregg County, Connolly said.

The data used to decide the size of the shelter would be made available to the public in the future, Willard said.

<h3>Layout</h3>

While the structure is designed with distinctly private and public locations, questions were raised by staff members at the current shelter regarding the drop off of animals or whether residents searching for a lost dog would be able to find the animal in stray housing during its first 72 hours at the shelter.

Connolly said the final design could include a larger drop-off area and account for a way for people searching for their animal to know which ones were in the stray dog or cat wing.

<h3>Looking forward</h3>

The city began moving toward a new animal shelter with the appointment of an Animal Shelter Task Force this past fall. The mayor formed the task force because of rising admission and euthanasia rates at the humane society's facility.

"A year ago we stood in this very room and were begging our mayor to put together a task force, and I think it is important that we all realize how far we have come in the last year," Casey Flewharty said. "I personally am really excited to see what you have here. Everything on my list that I would have liked to see is already covered. ... In the last year I feel like we have really come a long way."

Gregg County has earmarked $2.5 million for the facilities construction.

Connolly is expected to present a finished design for the shelter in upcoming months.

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