November 28, 2022

Council Chewing on a Location for New Pound

The City Council’s long-awaited workshop last week on proposals for the replacement and relocation of the Bellaire Pound took an early turn, diving into the details of our current animal control operations and policy.  (Video of that first hour will be of interest to those wishing to have the latest information.)  That discussion set the stage and provided necessary context for the remainder of the workshop, and for the decision making still to follow.  All were in agreement we’ve made great progress over the past year in upping our game at the pound as it exists today, but it’s time to move forward with a new facility elsewhere.

We won’t be rebuilding at the current site, because it’s too deep into the floodplain for us to be able to replace the structure cost-effectively, and there are related operational challenges as well.  After careful consideration of potential alternatives both in and outside Bellaire, staff have narrowed it down to two options:  a City-owned parcel on N. First St. at the northern edge of town, or an industrial property that’s about five miles away.

The obvious advantage of the N. First St. location is its proximity, and the fact that it’s already owned by the City means there wouldn’t be any land acquisition costs.  However, there would still be the opportunity cost of not being able to use it for other municipal purposes, or to perhaps even sell or swap it as our needs may change over time.  Staff estimates a total price of $225,000 to install and outfit a modular kennel facility on this site.

Aware we’ve got a problem we’re trying to solve, Bellaire’s own Rubenstein family came forward with an extremely generous offer to move the pound over to their commercial property on W. Bellfort near Almeda, which also hosts the Bellaire Police Department firearms training range.  They propose to lease the land to the City for a dollar a year, and would additionally fund the purchase of the structure and pay for utility connections.  The City would be responsible for certain site improvements to include ADA compliance, fencing and landscaping, at an estimated cost of $75,000.

Again, it’s an incredibly benevolent and much appreciated offer.  Of course it would entail certain trade-offs, mostly due to the added distance.  While it’s not all that long a drive, typically around 15 minutes, it would be less convenient a location both for our officers and for residents needing to go retrieve their lost dogs.  The Friends of the Bellaire Pound, whose volunteers have come to play a central role in pound operations, also expressed concerns about traveling to and from the site, especially after hours.

At either location we’ll be putting in a modular facility, to get all the features we need at a lower cost than building.  Staff presented a couple of designs in the same general price range, though there wasn’t too much discussion about them in the workshop.  Whichever one we choose it’ll be a vast improvement over the existing pound, with air conditioning and heating, increased capacity (eight or nine kennels, compared to five currently), an isolation kennel, multi-purpose room and restroom.

There’s a lot to think about, but this workshop session was quite helpful in zeroing in on our options and exploring the considerations pertinent to each.  Council also requested some additional information and further discussion with the Rubensteins before the matter comes back for a decision.  We expect that will be fairly soon, likely in January, and we’ll have the opportunity to receive formal public comment on the proposals at that time as well.