By DOTTY NIST
After at least a decade of efforts in the direction of a county-owned animal shelter, it now looks likely that Walton County will soon have such a facility.
The shelter is to be constructed on county-owned property on Triple G Road north of DeFuniak Springs, near the county landfill and new jail.
In February, in the face of the challenge of recent reductions in the county budget, commissioners voted to seek proposals from firms capable of designing and building a basic shelter for a maximum guaranteed price below the amount budgeted for the facility, $2.9 million.
Until that time, the commissioners had been looking at plans finalized in late 2005 for a more elaborate facility. Bids in connection with those plans had been rejected after County Administrator Ronnie Bell pointed out that even the lowest bid would have resulted in a total over the budgeted amount, once costs for water and sewer lines, tap fees, electrical connections, fencing and estimated change orders were taken into account. For the past couple of years, it has been difficult to fund projects that exceed budgeted amounts.
The county’s advertisement for bids on a design/construct facility got a good response, with nine firms responding by the deadline. A number of those firms did public presentations at the May 27 Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) meeting. Commissioners asked questions about the firms’ proposals and then did individual ratings to allow for the selection of several top firms.
When the ratings had been tabulated, Bell announced that Dooley Mack Constructors of Northwest Florida had been rated best, followed by Design Build Systems, Inc. and Hogan Construction Group of Florida, L.L.C.
Bids from all three of the top-choice firms came in under $2 million, according to figures provided by the county finance department.
Bell was directed to meet with Dooley Mack representatives and try to negotiate a contract for design and construction of the animal shelter. If that is successful, the company has pledged a nine-month time frame for the design/build process.
Bell was authorized to approach the other top firms in order of ranking if his negotiations with Dooley Mack are not successful.
Dooley Mack does work in 48 states but has a local office in Santa Rosa Beach. Neal Freshour, president of the local company, said this would be their first animal shelter but that they have done many projects with similarities, such as prisons, jails and medical facilities. Freshour added a current Dooley Mack Constructors of Northwest Florida project is the new Walton High School and that the company has saved the school district $600,000 on the project cost.
Robert Lee of the local Dooley Mack office commented on May 29 that the company prepared preliminary plans based exactly on the county’s specifications. The facility would consist of an 8,400-square-foot metal administrative building and a separate 7,700-square-foot concrete masonry kennel facility with 80 runs, he noted. The plans call for connection with city water and sewer.
Lee said the company’s first step once on board would be to finalize the design plans, followed by obtaining permits for the project.
Since 2002, stray animals picked up in Walton County have been sheltered in Washington County through a contractual agreement with Animal Control Services of West Florida in Chipley. The contract has had its supporters, but for years many residents have called for “bringing the animals back to Walton County.” Others have stated that they would prefer not spending money outside the county to shelter animals.
Information on Walton County Animal Control, including photos of stray cats and dogs picked up by officers, is available on the county Web site, www.co.walton.fl.us. The department may also be contacted by phone at 892-8682.