Funding for construction of an animal shelter and adoption center in St. Mary’s was approved by the county commissioners this week, meaning the county could see a new shelter within the next two years.

St. Mary’s, Calvert and Charles counties had been sharing the Tri-County Animal Shelter in Hughesville for more than 50 years. Following Calvert County, the St. Mary’s commissioners voted 4-1 in October 2018 to approve a standard county shelter with the intent to transition the facility to a low-kill/no-kill shelter. Commissioner John O’Connor (R) voted against the shelter, preferring it to be low-kill/no-kill when initially established.

Calvert’s shelter is now in operation west of Prince Frederick, so it no longer uses the Hughesville facility.

The standard model will require one or more nonprofit groups to operate it. Until that partnership is formed, the county government assumes responsibility for operation costs, estimated at $677,000 a year for the standard model or $1.2 million per year for a low-kill/no-kill shelter, The Enterprise reported.

On Tuesday, the department of finance requested approval to obtain $6,614,895 for the full scope of the animal shelter construction project.

The department recommended the award be given to Schiebel Construction of Huntingtown for the design and build construction, after being deemed technically qualified by the county. Schiebel was also awarded the design/build construction for the county jail renovation and addition last December. That project is underway, according to the project schedule.

The commissioners approved moving $1,965,225 from the fiscal 2020 capital reserve to provide additional funding for the animal shelter award.

The general contracting firm also completed projects at Capt. Walter Francis Duke Elementary school and the College of Southern Maryland wellness center in Leonardtown, as well as significant commercial projects such as a Harley Davidson dealership in Hughesville.

An area near FDR Boulevard and First Colony Boulevard in California has been selected for site of the new animal shelter. The location is near retail and residential properties, which could encourage pet adoptions.

The shelter is scheduled for completion two years after the contract has been awarded, according to meeting documents.

Stephen Walker, the county’s emergency services director, also requested authorization to fund an animal shelter staffing study, saying that a focused study is necessary. In June of 2017, commissioners received a completed animal shelter study which provided information that assisted in many aspects of the project including space programming, low-kill versus no-kill, needs of the community and budgeting scenarios. There was some discussion on staffing, however this was only one component of the larger study.

“This [specific] study is pure and simple staffing,” Walker said.

Commissioner Eric Colvin (R) said he thought that the county would buy the shelter and nonprofits would run it.

“Maintaining volunteers is hard, and this is too important to go that route,” Walker said.

“Right now we should plan to man it ourselves,” Commissioner President Randy Guy (R) said.

Commissioner Michael Hewitt (R) suggested looking at the new Calvert animal shelter as a model.

The commissioners approved the budget amendment for the department to utilize $14,500 of the commissioners’ reserve to fund the costs of the staffing study.

Twitter: @MadisonEntNews

Twitter: @MadisonEntNews