Animal shelter expansion aims to reduce euthanasia

By Audrey Milam

Athens-Clarke County Animal Control expects the expansion to the shelter on Buddy Christian Way to be completed in June.

The expansion, one of 33 projects funded by the 2011 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or SPLOST, package, will allow more animals to stay longer, reducing the euthanasia rate of adoptable animals.

According to Animal Control Superintendent Patrick Rives, the expansion includes plans for six kennels added to the existing 30, and an additional five quarantine kennels built in another location for dogs with behavioral problems.

“Right now those quarantine pens are part of our existing kennels,” Rives said, “so moving those dogs to these other pens will open up additional capacity as well.”

The 3500-square feet of new construction will also include a heated puppy care room, administrative offices, an evidence storage room and a larger intake area designed to ease the process for introducing dogs into the shelter.

“The flow of animals through will make a lot more sense,” Rives said, referring to the current layout that requires officers to process new dogs in the back of the shelter and move them around until they are ready for the kennels at the front.

Susan, a volunteer of four years, takes a black lab from one such kennel. A purple wooden sign says, “I’m an owner surrender.” A green sign says, “I’m housebroken.”

The lab, Lottie, plays with Hawkins in a 15 by 15-foot gravel pen. Freezing rain falls, but Susan stays. “I stay until they’re all out,” she says.

Susan is hopeful that the expansion will help save dogs like Lottie. Her owners adopted her from the shelter after Animal Control seized Lottie and several Chihuahuas from a hoarder.

They returned her, Susan said, because she kept getting out of the fence.

An expected efficiency boost will come from the addition of a cat shelter wing to the main shelter. Currently the staff walk the back and forth between the separate cat and dog facilities.

Volunteer Meredith Pierce, 21, said the joint facilities may also lead to “cross-exposure” of adoptable animals, meaning people looking for a dog may take home a cat too.

Pierce, along with friend Jeremy Bullard, 23, also thinks the changes will allow greater capacity for volunteers. On the weekends, she said, there can be one or more volunteers per dog at a time.

According to the Animal Control’s records, nearly 1500 people have volunteered in the last six months alone.

The mayor and county commission regularly review the planning, design and construction at public meetings, like all of the 2011 SPLOST “community improvement projects,” according to the Athens-Clarke County official website.

Although county voters approved the project in November of 2010, ground did not break on the shelter expansion until October of last year. Phillips Brothers Contracting, Inc. won the contract with the county for $1,074,202, although there is a little more than $200,000 extra budgeted for the project.

The Animal Shelter project makes up only two-thirds of one-percent of the total budget for the 2011 SPLOST package. The one-cent sales tax raised nearly $200,000,000 over the course of the tax term.

The shelter modifications cost each of the county’s residents only $10.65 in additional taxes, spread over three years.

That 10 bucks and change, or about two medium lattes, is helping Athens-Clarke County Animal Control ensure that the euthanasia rates that have consistently dropped during Superintendent Rives’ tenure, will continue to fall for another 19 years.

From July 2014 to January 2015, only 115 adoptable animals were euthanized, about 8.8-percent of all animals that came through the shelter. Animal Control Officer Michelle Carrigg said, “We’re not a no-kill shelter, but we’re a low-kill shelter, because our rates are very low for adoptable dogs.”

“We try our best to leave the dogs at home,” Carrigg said, “and then the ones that have to come here, when they are here we work hard with our volunteers to get them out via adoption or rescue.”

Keeping animals out of the shelter is key to keeping euthanasia low. Animal Control is only required to hold strays for five days before they euthanize, although they keep many animals longer if they have the space. When the shelter is crowded, however, officers are forced to euthanize the animals that have been there the longest.

Owner-surrendered animals like Lottie the black lab have no holding period. She would be the first to go.

The increased capacity of the renovated facility, however, will allow Animal Control to humanely serve a greater number of animals like Lottie.


A New Garden is Going to be Planted at the Ware-Lydon House

By: Evan Caras

In August, money from a special-purpose local-option sales tax (SPLOST) will go to the Ware-Lydon House, located at 293 Hoyt St, to construct a historic garden and to landscape some aspects of the garden.

According to the official proposal, submitted by the Board of Directors of the Ware-Lyndon House, the garden is going to be modeled after the former Stevens Thomas Garden, which is from the same era.

The overall intention for the new addition to the house is to add a garden to show what the house would have looked like originally as well as to enhance the experience of the visitors.

The garden will also be educational since it will have displays up explaining what the garden is and give a brief history lesson to those that visit.

In addition, the garden will also feature a way to showcase water conservation.

A new system will be built that will allow the house to run on its own water the majority of the time and only very rarely will it have to rely on the government to supply the water.

In total, the system is expected to produce a total of 250 to 500 gallons of water per day.

On the other hand, as desirable as a new water system would be, having one installed will not be easy.

“A must have feature of the garden is a working cistern that will be both an educational and interpretive feature, but will also serve as the sole source for garden irrigation once the garden is established. Designing and constructing an affordable cistern that will capture enough water to service the garden during the summer will be a challenge,” Barbara Andrews, the Arts and Nature Division Administrator of the Leisure Services Department stated.

The new garden will have a set of brick steps that will lead from the street, directly to the porch.

The centerpiece of the garden is going to be a cast iron fountain.

The actual shape of the garden will be rectangular, and hedges will shape the outline of the garden.

The garden will also have four apostrophe looking flowerbeds that will be symmetrical to each other.

They bottom of the apostrophes will all face each other and the fountain will be in the very center of the formation.

The intention of the design is that those who have come to relax can enjoy the garden at the front of the house easier than the people who have come on a more serious business.

As of right now the garden is unappealing to look at.

It has a few trees, a few plants, a few flowers, and one abstract sculpture.

The grass is horribly uneven, there is discoloration is some spots of the garden, and some of the plants show clear signs of damage.

This is a stark contrast from the house itself, both inside and outside, since the house is a very fine building and lots of detail clearly went into its construction.

The inside is filled with artwork and is nicely put together.

Everywhere one looks there is something that can draw one’s eye; whether it is the artwork, old books in the library, or even the studios themselves.

It is no wonder why the building’s management wants a new garden.

However, although the garden would look nice, brighten up the area, and serve and educational function; it has stirred up controversy about whether the garden should have been implemented in the first place.

The biggest concern about adding the new garden is that it will be turned into more of a general community center for paid purposes as opposed to how it is now where a person can come in and enjoy the art library or perhaps relax in warm weather.

If the house went too far in the paid direction people would worry whether if all the services the house offers for free, namely the library and the art studios, will remain free or if they will even still be in the house.

Pam Reidy, the Leisure Services director, admitted that she heard a lot of people that worried that the garden could change to a community center, but she also stated that their fears were likely unfounded.

Pam Reidy noted that they were not going to be taking anything away from the house despite the direction it was going in.

Originally, Edward R. Ware built the house in the mid 1800, the government acquired the house in 1939, and the house was later restored in 1960.

The new addition will not be cheap, as it will cost a total of 225,000 dollars to implement and a further 5,000 dollars per year to maintain.

The most expensive change is estimated to be the construction of the cistern, a device used to catch and store rainwater, at 30,000 dollars, while the cheapest is expected to be the seventy shrubs which cost twenty-five dollars each totaling 1,750 dollars.

The garden itself will have a total area of 4675 feet (or eighty-five feet by fifty five feet).

A side benefit of the new garden is that it would make the overall area look much nicer than it currently does.

“The process is currently underway to hire professional services to design the garden.   Once the final design is approved, the construction phase will be bid out to contractors who specialize in this type of project and will build to specifications…and to have the construction completed by November,” according to Barbara Andrews.

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Underground construction unearths Athens history

By Ashton Adams

When City Engineer James Barnett developed a plan to install underground piping through downtown Athens in 1914, he certainly did not expect these pipes to remain in their place a century later.

Yet, there they lie and Athens construction crews will soon be encountering them and much more underneath the city’s streets.

“Speaking professionally, our department can map out and describe what crews will be running into during construction. Cracked pipes, leaking, rust. Those types of things,” said S.P.L.O.S.T Program Administrator Donald Martin. “However, when we speculate about the downtown area, knowing it is about 200 years old, we know we are bound to run into some interesting finds.”

Crews received the green light to begin excavation underneath Clayton Street after city officials approved a $7.1 million Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax project last year. This year long downtown streetscape project, which began in February, will focus on repairing and upgrading the in-ground utilities along Clayton Street and will conclude in August.

With or without specialist consultation, pieces of Athens’ history remain underground and crews will soon become privy to what lies below.

Generations of city developers since the start of the 20th century have had a history of paving or backfilling entire structures in an attempt to cut back on funds. Janine Duncan, a campus planning coordinator at the University of Georgia and member of the Athens Historical Commission, believes that many of these structures remain where they stood a century ago, surrounded by inches of thick paving material.

“History shows that humans have always taken the path of least resistance. What has resulted in Athens’ case is a lot of structures getting backfilled,” Duncan said. “By working with archaeologists and anthropologists here in Athens, we can distinguish human activity from a century ago. Human activity remains as a scar.”

According to Duncan, the city stands almost a foot taller than it did in 1914 because of the countless layers of pavement that have been laid over the years.

And underneath the pavement are indicators of the city’s age.

“Chances are, what crews will find below ground are remnants of century-old paving bricks, Belgian block and entire water cisterns that horses and mules once drank out of,” Duncan confirmed.

Crews will see trolley tracks that once split the downtown area and ran down Lumpkin Street and various side streets as well. This railway service ran from 1885 until 1930 when G.I.’s returning home from WWII were hired to disassemble the tracks.

When it comes to underground utilities, both Martin and Duncan agree that the pipes installed in 1914 still remain in their place and are in good condition.

“I don’t think city developers a century ago built some of these underground utilities with an intention that they would remain there today,” Duncan said. “On the other hand, crews in the early 1900’s were using withstanding material like glazed terracotta and cast iron for the piping. I believe the city was putting more money into its projects than what today’s city would be doing.”

Smaller objects such as railroad ties, rough-stone stairs, fences, wells and outhouses from the early 20th century have been found under Broad and Clayton Streets.

Duncan, with the help of professor of anthropology Erv Garrison, has been able to scan the ground in and around downtown Athens and discover outlines of human disturbances underground.

Scanning these areas with radar and electromagnetometer equipment, Duncan confirmed that specific areas downtown also show to be areas of interest for archaeologists.

“The areas downtown where I can guarantee archaeologists will uncover human disturbances are in those small interior alley ways that run behind most buildings,” Duncan said. “They have virtually been left untouched since downtown’s original construction.”

It has been 40 years since crews have done an excavation project like this one, and one local administrator has been present for both.

“The last time Athens went underground like this, crews and officials were surprised at how well the piping had held together. Even then that was shocking to us,” said Glenn Coleman, assistant director for the Public Utilities Department. “And during our pre-construction evaluation on Clayton Street last year, we were yet again shocked. The cast iron piping below ground has evaded rusting, cracks and decay for so many years. It really is impressive.”

Per requirements of the Historic Preservation Act of 1966, S.P.L.O.S.T officials had to take into account their undertakings on historic properties, above and below ground, and allow opportunity for an advisory council on historic preservation to comment on the project. Martin said the S.P.L.O.S.T department fulfilled these requirements.

“We have certainly been in coordination with the Historic Preservation Commission in order to make sure we do not impact anything from a historical standpoint,” Martin said.

However, conflicting reports from a member of the commission revealed that S.P.L.O.S.T officials had not consulted the Historical Commission as previously stated.

“From my standpoint, city officials have commonly avoided approaching the Commission about local projects because they regard it as a pain or a waste of time,” Duncan said. “There is a preconceived notion with developers that if they consult the Historic Commission, they will not be able to proceed with their work and that is not the case whatsoever.”

Amber Eskew, Preservation Specialist for the city’s Planning Department also said she knew nothing about the S.P.L.O.S.T-funded project and had not been consulted or involved with the project in any way.

This Clayton Street underground construction will be the last of its kind for decades. Any replaced piping will remain where it is for another 60 to 70 years. Construction will be done on a block-by-block basis beginning on E. Clayton Street. Work will be minimal, non-disruptive and nearly invisible to the common passerby.