Today’s AAS has a long article on the history of the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter (WCRAS), Despite warnings, budget and staffing were not allotted to meet new facility’s needs. Despite warnings from those they sought input from, county planners – primarily former Commissioner Greg Boatright and his assistant Kathy Grimes – went ahead with their own “conservative” approach to building an animal shelter.
Almost from the beginning, animal shelter experts and residents raised questions about the facility’s capacity, budget and staffing.
Janet Ott, board president of the Humane Society of Williamson County in Leander, was among the first to tell the county that the figures were too low.
“When the original $400,000 budget with five people came out, we were very clear that it was inadequate,” she said. “That just didn’t make any sense.”
The Humane Society took in 3,400 animals last year â€” less than half of the county shelter’s expected total â€” with a staff of 12.
Bert Stratemann, San Marcos’ animal services manager, said shelter staff also warned Williamson County leaders after hearing about their plans.
“We were really surprised at the number of staff out there,” he said, referring to the much larger shelter. “At that time, we had nine paid staff, and we were running ragged.”
[Kathy Grimes, former Commissioner Greg Boatright's assistant] said she didn’t recall any objections from the shelters she contacted, which included San Marcos. But she said she remembers hearing from the Humane Society, whose contract with the county was about to end.
“They were in a situation where anything we were saying, they were opposed to, it seemed like. We realized we just had different missions,” Grimes said, explaining that they had to take any animals that came to the shelter, whereas the no-kill Humane Society can limit admissions.
Some city officials now acknowledge that they should have looked closer at the proposal.
Although Boatright and Grimes said the capacity figures seemed feasible at the time, they blamed the staffing levels on the architect.
The architect, Larry Connolly, explained that spending more money on the design would allow the county to spend less on staffing because the facility was designed to be economical and easy to manage, Grimes said.
Connolly, however, said he didn’t recommend specific staffing figures.
“I may have facilitated their decision-making,” he said. “This is my specialty, but I don’t recall any specific direction in terms of (staffing), and I deferred to the people that operate these things.”
Connolly’s 2005 master plan determined that the shelter would need 88 dog kennels and 44 cat cages to accommodate up to 14,000 animals a year for the next 10 years. The shelter was built with 85 dog kennels and 60 cat cages.
That’s less than the Humane Society’s capacity: 98 dog kennels and 64 cat kennels.
That’s right, it was the architect’s fault. One may notice the word “conservative” is used when the planners speak of their budgeting philosophy for the shelter, not adequate. The word used instead, EOW thinks, should be “cheap”. Their focus was not building and staffing a shelter adequately but building one that would cost the least. The county leaders thought they knew better than those that had experience running an animal shelter. Despite being told over and over again that they were wrong, they decided to plow ahead knowing they were right, it would seem, and do this on-the-cheap. Three shelter directors later, a higher budget, and finally things are looking up at the WCRAS. Imagine that? If they would have only listened to reason in the first place all of this could have been avoided, and it probably would have saved us money in the long run.
At the bottom of the AAS article there’s a comparison of what Williamson’s shelter as compared to similar shelter’s in other counties. It’s very telling.