City again seeking bids for cattery addition at the Great Falls Animal Shelter

The city is accepting bids again for the Great Falls Animal Shelter cattery addition.

Bids are due by 3 p.m. March 20.

The design hasn’t changed, but this time, the city has broken the project into phases in the hopes of getting an affordable bid.

City rejects bid for animal shelter upgrades

Last summer, the city went to bid on the entire project, which includes the new cattery, expansion in the canine area, interior office and reception area remodeling, exterior façade renovation, site work and landscaping.

The city received one bid but had to reject it since the base bid came in $245,186 over the project estimate and budgeted funding.

The shelter has continued fundraising to be able to fund the entire project and as of March 11, had raised $463,000 in donations specifically for the shelter expansion, according to Lynn Formell, shelter director. Those funds are not tax dollars and are designated specifically for the expansion.

Formell said they’re hoping to get a bid within their budget to start on the first phase this year.

Staff is looking at grants, but they require the city to at least have a contractor approved, Formell said.

City staff started working with Nelson Architects in 2012 to develop a master plan for the shelter and in 2013, the commission approved a professional services agreement with Nelson Architects for architectural/engineering services.

The city shelter was built in the 1970s and serves an average of 2,000 animals annually, of which about 800 are cats, according to the shelter.

The city shelter operates with an annual budget of about $529,000.

During the Feb. 5 meeting, City Commissioner said he wanted to again look at some form of cooperation between the city and the Maclean Cameron Animal Adoption Center or combining the city’s shelter with the private center.

The way this will start, he said, two city commissioners will meet with two Maclean board members to “kick tires.”

He said that Commissioner Mary Moe had agreed to participate.

Mayor Bob Kelly said the city went down this road a few years ago and it hadn’t worked out.

“We’ve kind of been assured by some of the principals involved that the landscape has changed,” Kelly said. “No promises being made, just looking at the opportunities that might exist.”

Robinson said he was planning informal meetings at first  to “kick the tires” and that with just two commissioners involved it wouldn’t constitute a public meeting, subject to public notice or minutes.

Robinson said that he understood that as a commissioner he had a fiduciary responsibility to the city.

In October 2016, Robinson and others from Maclean met with commissioners about possible collaboration.

At the time, Robinson was acting as the Maclean foundation past president and said he group was asking the city commission to direct the city manager to meet with foundation leaders to develop a plan for collaboration within 60 days.

During that meeting, commissioners indicated it would take more time and chose not to take action during the October meeting.

In 2016, Robinson said the foundation didn’t want to run the facility and had never intended to do so.

In 2016, Robinson told commissioners and city staffers that it would be difficult for the foundation to continue operating the center without city support.

In a response to The Electric in February, the center’s board said that donations and service income fund 100 percent of their operations.

In their response, the board said their operating budget fluctuates based on the number of animals they take in and the services they offer.

“We won’t give up on the animals, the donors or our community. The Maclean-Cameron Animal Adoption Center plans to continue our mission-based efforts toward improved animal welfare through humane education,” according to the board’s written response.

The foundation paid off its $1.7 million debt on the building in February 2018.

According to a response to The Electric from the foundation board, the foundation has $157,797.41 of remaining debt on the land.

“The owners gave us a tremendous deal on the land and the payment schedule to acquire the land. In addition, we have a donor who has committed to match half of the annual payment through 2022. We have 7 more payments to acquire the land,” the board said in a response to The Electric.

As of the end of February, the center had six full-time employees, meaning they work 32 hours or more, and six part-time employees, according to the foundation board.

In their response, the foundation board said “we are open to discussions with the city on any combination that would provide a better experience for the animals in need of temporary shelter, give the homeless animals a better chance to find a forever home, provide those who are seeking to provide a home to an animal a better experience, give the community and it’s animal supporters and volunteers more opportunity to be involved and a better experience and to lower the cost to both the tax payer and the MCAAC by combining where we are duplicating efforts and exploring synergies that can benefit both parties, the animals and the community.”