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City staff taps Austin-based design firm for animal shelter

By Richard Yeakley
Aug. 12, 2013 at 10 p.m.

The city of Longview has selected an Austin architectural firm to design the proposed animal shelter - if council approves the negotiated contract.

Austin-based Connolly Architects, the eponymous design firm of Larry Connolly, has been tapped by city staff as the front-runner to design the much-discussed shelter, although there was no public discussion of how much the design phase will cost.

In the past 33 years the Connolly firm has designed more than 80 animal shelters in 25 states, including the 21,000 square foot Bexar County Humane Society and SPCA shelter in San Antonio and the $3.9 million, 15,000 square foot Williamson County Animal Services Shelter in Georgetown. Other Texas shelters include San Marcos, Flower Mound and Plano.

"I think he is going to be a very quick, articulate partner to have on designing a new shelter," said Director of Development Services Kevin Cummings, as he discussed the progress of the new animal shelter with the Animal Shelter Advisory Committee.

"Companion pet overpopulation is clearly an issue that communities have become increasingly concerned with and a new facility can be an agent for change," said Connolly. "It is a service, and I would say it is a calling. While it is not rocket science, I will tell you the building has evolved over time.

Connolly Architects were selected by a group of city staff out of 12 applicants who responded to requests for qualifications to design the new shelter. The firm, and the contract, will be presented to the City Council for approval at a council meeting yet to be determined.

City Architect Brent Brevard is working with the designer, Cummings said.

The city set out on a path to build a new animal shelter last fall when Mayor Jay Dean created an animal shelter task force following concerns of overpopulation and euthanasia rates at the Humane Society of Northeast Texas' shelter with which the city contracts for the service of sheltering animals.

This spring, the task force brought forward recommendations to the council including the construction of a new animal shelter.

"I think he is going to be very realistic. Some of the others we had talked to ... had ideas that were kind of pie in the sky," Cummings said.

Cummings said one selling point on Connolly's application was how hands-on he hoped to be with the community.

Connolly will likely hold meetings to ask residents and community leaders what they would like to see in their city's shelter.

While time frame and cost have not yet been determined, Connolly said a year and a half construction period from the time of contract was not unreasonable.

"We tell clients, we can draw faster than they can decide. The issue is roughly a year in construction, six months for production of the documents. If meeting schedules and authorizations don't present any delays, 18 months is a reasonable schedule," he said.

"It is the North East Texas area will clearly be the beneficiary of the resources that the city and county are dedicating to it," Connolly added.



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