Animal Shelter Could Get Vote in Two Weeks

Sep 5, 2017

Kalamazoo County Parks Director Dave Rachowicz at the County Board of Commissioners' Committee of the Whole Meeting Tuesday
Credit Sehvilla Mann / WMUK

Commissioners have also agreed to waive fees for vital records sought by the homeless, and to fund an alternative plan for consolidated 911 dispatch.

The animals in Kalamazoo County’s care might be closer than ever to getting better digs. On Tuesday the Board of Commissioners heard a plan for replacing the county’s aging animal shelter.

The county has taken tentative steps toward updates in the past, only to end up falling back. This time commissioners will consider a design and engineering proposal for a building on Lamont Street, near the current shelter site on Lake Street. The commission could vote on the plan in two weeks.

The proposal calls for the county to hire architects from outside the Kalamazoo area. That drew criticism from some board members on Tuesday. But Parks Director Dave Rachowicz, who helped to draft the proposal, says the county needs to work with experts in animal shelter design.

“If we went with a local team that didn’t have experience, it would be very likely that we would have problems. So what we’re really trying to do by picking this team is avoid those problems in the future just because of the expertise and experience that they have. These buildings are very different to build,” he says.

Commissioner Julie Rogers says she’s all right with hiring architects from outside Kalamazoo, as the shelter review board suggests, because it’s such a complicated building. But Rogers says the plan could use more input from the public.

“I’m hoping that as the architectural drawings get built out, before the final phase that we can have some kind of community open house or charrette where we can get good feedback,” she says.

The new shelter would include grounds where dogs could exercise. If commissioners approve the plan the facility could open in March of 2019.

Dispatch

A new plan to pay for consolidated 911 dispatch in Kalamazoo has won a key vote. On Tuesday the county board of commissioners agreed to a proposal that replaces the one that was put before the voters in May. The ballot measure would have used a phone surcharge to pay for unified 911 service, but it failed by a wide margin. The new plan does not call for a phone charge. Instead, the county’s five 911 providers will pay a certain amount based partly on population, and partly on what they’re already paying toward dispatch. All five 911 services have to agree to the plan.

Records waiver

Kalamazoo County has agreed to waive fees for vital records for residents who are experiencing homelessness. On Tuesday the county commission approved a pilot program to grant the waivers. They’re intended to help people to get documents such as birth certificates that they might need to prove their identity. The Clerk-Register’s office will forgo up to $5000 worth of fees for the records. Calhoun County has launched a similar program.