The El Dorado Water and Public Works Board has authorized the Department of Public Works to proceed with plans to build a new city dog pound -- a project that has been ongoing for five years.
During a regular meeting on March 15, the EWPWB, which is made up of El Dorado City Council members, Robert Edmonds, director of public works, reported that three bids had been submitted for the project and the low bid of $594,341 came from Diversified Construction and Design.
Now, the DPW will advance to the next steps of the process: work with Diversified to value-engineer some of the bid specifications to help reduce costs and secure the necessary funding to complete the project.
For nearly 20 years, city officials and animal control officers, past and present, have cited the need to upgrade, improve and expand the existing pound, which is in poor condition, or build a new facility.
Significant improvements were last performed on the city dog pound in 2006.
Then, the city council allocated $7,500 from the Animal Control budget -- the AC service was in-house at the time and is now contracted out by the city -- to address problems with overcrowding, structural deterioration and theft.
An old, dilapidated section of the pound was razed and rebuilt, a new roof was added, chain-link fences were repaired and concrete blocks were installed between cells.
Eighteen new cells were also added as a result of the old section being rebuilt, bringing the total number of functional pens to 34.
On March 15, city officials said conditions at the pound have worsened since the repairs were done 17 years ago and the facility is not fit to hold dogs.
Council Member David Hurst asked if the "old pound" will be torn down or used for storage when the new one is built and Edmonds said the facility will be demolished.
"There's not much of an old pound left," Council Member Vance Williamson said.
Edmonds and other council members agreed, with Council Member Judy Ward adding, "There's not much there. It's terrible."
New pound, new location
In 2018, the city council dedicated $22,907 from the city's reserve coffers to relocate the dog pound from its longtime location at the City Shop on South Martin Luther King and build a new facility.
With additional funding from the public works' budget, Edmonds reported at the time that approximately $40,000 was available for the project.
Three years later, the city accepted an offer from LANXESS to lease two acres of land at the intersection of U.S 82 and South West Avenue/Southfield Road as the new site for the city pound.
The agreement calls for a 99-year lease at a nominal fee ($10 per year) to the city.
Edmonds and city officials have said the new site allows space for future expansion, including the addition of more cells to house dogs.
Also, heavy traffic flow and high visibility in the area will help curb break-ins and dog thefts -- which have been an ongoing problem at the existing pound for a number of years.
Edmonds previously said the DPW had looked into potential cost-saving measures to build the new pound, including razing an existing building on the LANXESS site and salvaging and re-using some of the materials to help build the new facility.
Last December, Edmonds said cost estimates that were compiled in 2021 "were way out of line" due to a rise in the cost of building materials and labor -- circumstances that were spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic and inflation.
The project was rebid this year and bid proposals were opened March 7.
Edmonds told city council members last week that the DPW is looking into other cost-cutting measures that could potentially lower the base bid from Diversified Construction.
"There was a lot of rock in that project that we can substitute ground asphalt for. There's some grading work that can be negotiated but as we stand right now, it's $594,341," Edmonds said.
Council Member Frank Hash asked if improvements that were previously discussed for the existing pound would be incorporated into the new-construction project.
"That old one's been pieced together and 'band-aided,'" Hash said.
Noting that the existing pound is a sad mix of "chain-link and tarps", Edmonds said plans for the new facility call for an enclosed, cinder-block building with wooden trusses and an HVAC system.
Hash inquired about wash bays to dispose of dog waste, saying that the situation at the existing pound has grown so problematic over the years that the city has had to call in professional services for help.
Edmonds said the new facility will come with a trough system that will allow for easy and sanitary disposal.
"The existing thing they've got is not very good. This has got a lot of improvements," he said.
When Hash expressed concern about poor conditions at the existing pound and hopes for a better facility, Edmonds replied, "This will be a nice, first-class facility. I mean, it's a half-a-million-dollar dog pound. It's a light year ahead of what they have now."
"Well, if you go out there and have a heart at all ...," Hash said in reference to the existing facility, his voice trailing off with emotion.
Ward said plans for the new pound are based on the municipal dog pound in Jacksonville.
She also said she had visited with and gotten information from Jacksonville city officials during the Arkansas Municipal League Winter Conference in January.
"They have a very nice facility," said Ward.
Edmonds reiterated that the DPW will continue to negotiate with Diversified on the estimated costs
"I hope this doesn't compromise on the facility," Hash said.
Edmonds assured city officials that "it won't," explaining that the negotiations primarily pertain to the proposed parking lot.
"It will be to substitute Class 7 rock for re-ground asphalt. It'll still be a functional parking lot," Edmonds said.
Hurst inquired about security cameras and Edmonds said surveillance cameras will be installed at the new pound.
Williamson, who chairs the city's Finance Committee, recommended that the council deduct the amount that has already been allocated for the project and present a funding request to the El Dorado Works Board to cover the balance.
Efforts are also ongoing to rebid another long-running project to build a new storage shed/workshop at Lions Club Municipal Golf Course.
Plans for the shed/workshop have been more than three years in the making.
In September of 2019, LCMGC manager Danny Carelock expressed the need for a shed to safely store chemicals, as required by state environmental regulations, and a workshop where LCMGC employees can safely repair equipment.
Carelock had provided an estimate of $15,000 - $20,000 for a 32 x 30-square-foot building.
Three months later, Edmonds said the cost estimate was $30,000 and that money had been set aside in the city parks' budget to fund the project.
In early 2020, city officials agreed to suspend some city projects to assess how the COVID-19 outbreak would affect the city budget.
The storage shed/workshop was among the projects that were put on hold.
Last year, Edmonds told city officials that the $30,000 cost estimate had come in prior to the COVID-19 outbreak and costs for such projects had increased since then.
Bids were advertised for the project last summer but none were submitted and with no responses to ads, the project had to be rebid, Edmonds said earlier this year.
He told water and public works board members in February that he would notify them when the new bid specs were ready to go -- which was to have been this month.
However, on March 15, Edmonds provided city officials with an update, saying that the bid specs "aren't quite ready yet."