HERMITAGE – The Shenango Valley Animal Shelter board is moving closer to a new facility, unveiling a study outlining the building’s potential design and amenities.
“We want to build the best facility we can,’’ President Duane Piccirilli said at the shelter board’s most recent meeting. “But we aren’t going to burden communities with costs they can’t afford.’’
Shelter officials plan to raise 100 percent of the cost of building a new animal shelter somewhere in the Shenango Valley. No firm estimates are in place, but the price tag is generally expected to run between $2.5 million to $3.5 million.
The shelter has begun a drive to raise funds for the new facility.
That fundraising effort advanced by $180,000 with a single donation in the will of a recently deceased area resident. Farrell City Manager Michael Ceci, who announced the donation at the meeting, said he didn’t want to reveal the donor’s name until the gift is finalized, but that there is a commitment to provide the funds.
The shelter is now housed in a 1,200-square-foot building along Broadway Avenue in Hermitage.
“I call it the Alcatraz of animal shelters,’’ said Ceci, who serves as an alternate board member representing Farrell and as an advisor for the nonprofit organization.
Planning for the new shelter included a study by Youngstown-based Copich Architects. Based on the Shenango Valley’s human population, and current and projected animal intake, the firm concluded that the new building should be between about 6,500 and 8,000 square feet.
The Copich study also indicated that the new shelter should have an adoption area for dogs that includes exercise runs, with a separate cat adoption space. The new facility should include a pet bonding room near the lobby to allow people to interact with the dog or cat they are thinking about adopting.
Plans for the future shelter would include an administrative department with spaces for a lobby, public restrooms, offices and an employee lunch room and meeting room.
A support area, not generally accessible to the public, should have areas for bathing dogs, food preparation and storage, garage, storage and an indoor exercise area.
The new shelter’s intake area, where animals would be received, would have an exam room, holding kennel with six dog runs, a cat holding area and an isolation area. The intake would also include a night drop that can be used only by authorized people such as Humane Society officers.
The study also indicated that the building should be designed to allow for expansion, particularly the addition of dog runs.
A vital part of the shelter is the installation of a proper air exchange system, Piccirilli said.
“We need to have that to prevent cats and dogs from spreading diseases to other animals,’’ he said.
While the shelter board is willing to consider converting an existing building to house the shelter, Piccirilli said adding the air system could be cost-prohibitive.
Board members have been discussing adding a community room, which could be used for gatherings and parties, to the plans.
“I think some of us are looking at that as a long-range plan,’’ Piccirilli said. “Maybe we can build one with the capacity to expand it at some point.’’
Ceci has proposed the community room to generate funds for the organization through rentals.
“You can’t always rely on donations of good people all the time to operate,’’ he said. “It’s better to invest in this (room) with the donations of today.’’
Piccirilli said the board hopes to designate a location by this summer.
A key piece of information, he said, is that the fundraising campaign’s entire proceeds will go toward building the shelter. All of the seven participating communities pay dues to cover the shelter’s operating costs.
While the facility fund drive donations won’t directly help animals, the dogs and cats will benefit from a larger state-of-the-art building, Piccirilli said.
“Animal rescue people are kind of unique people,’’ he said. “They love animals and want to care for them. But our fundraiser is specifically dedicated for bricks and mortar.’’