GREENSBORO — Project planners have scaled back the design for Guilford County’s new animal shelter, but officials say it will still be sufficient to serve the needs of stray cats, dogs and other critters.

Jorge Ortega, the director of the Guilford County Department of Animal Services, said the new design includes most of the elements originally planned but in a smaller envelope, with a 335-animal capacity, down from 407 in the original design.

The new design is about a fifth smaller overall than the original concept, spanning just less than 30,000 square feet, roughly 8,000 square feet smaller that first planned.

“That should give us enough holding space to handle the day-to-day” needs, Ortega told the Guilford County Board of Commissioners at a work session Monday evening.

Ortega assured commissioners that the new shelter will still be an attractive place residents will want to visit and not be appalled as many are by “the ugly duckling we now have” on West Wendover Avenue.

“The only way we are going to be able to increase adoptions is to bring in visitors,” Ortega said, assuring commissioners that the new design will still have the desired magnetic quality.

Parts of the current shelter at 4525 W. Wendover Ave. date to the early 1950s, with the most recent structure a relic of the late 1980s. The hodgepodge of buildings is difficult to keep clean and not designed for modern veterinary care.

The initial concept for replacing it had to be downsized after county officials received a preliminary cost estimate as part of an architectural consultant’s initial analysis of the project.

“The estimate was approximately $3 million to $4 million too high,” county Facilities Director Daniel Durham told the board.

The project has a construction budget of about $12.8 million at a new site on Guilford College Road, not far from the current shelter on West Wendover Avenue.

Commissioner Justin Conrad noted during Monday’s discussion that he and other board members have been hearing from constituents worried that with a smaller footprint, the new shelter was not going to measure up to expectations.

Conrad said it’s important “to get that message out there, that this is going to be a more inviting place than what we have now.”

In his first year as Guilford’s animal services leader, Ortega said that making the new shelter one that people enjoy visiting is a critical factor in his plans for improving the shelter’s image and its success at finding new homes for abandoned pets of all types.

“The only way we’re going to increase adoptions is if we can bring in visitors,” Ortega said of the new design.

At the same time, he acknowledged that it wasn’t ideal to lose the space that ultimately means the future shelter could house about 70 fewer animals.

He said it was important to continue forging ties with community groups that can provide foster care for animals that otherwise would be housed at the shelter.

Ortega noted that last week the shelter had about 100 animals in foster care. The existing shelter faced a population crunch last week after people surrendered large numbers of pets and strays in a single day.

In addition to reaching out for help with foster care, the shelter responded by temporarily waiving adoption fees for animals that had been at the shelter for more than 30 days.

At Monday’s meeting, Ortega said that a smaller lobby was one of the new design’s more significant concessions to budget issues. He said the new design included two wings of kennels for dogs awaiting adoption, one less than the original concept.

He said the new design also includes less space for spay and neutering procedures.

But he assured commissioners the design would include space to offer educational programs for the general public.

He suggested the smaller lobby might prove to be a blessing in disguise.

“When we started thinking about heating, cooling and keeping it clean, that’s a lot of space to take care of,” he said of the original design.

The county does not have a target date yet for opening the new shelter, but Ortega said he hopes to have architectural drawings finished by September and then put the project out for bids by construction contractors.

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Contact Taft Wireback at 336-373-7100 and follow @TaftWirebackNR on Twitter.

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