City delays decision on animal shelter
By BRENT SHRUM Western News Reporter
Kootenai Pets for Life's plans to build an animal shelter on city property remain under consideration by the Libby City Council despite a recommendation against the proposal from a council committee and a petition of opposition from a number of area residents.
KPFL is requesting a long-term lease on city property adjacent to the county animal shelter off Pipe Creek Road. The group is looking to build a "no-kill" shelter for dogs and cats.
The proposal was initially submitted to the council in November. At Monday's council meeting, KPFL representative Eileen Carney reviewed detailed plans for the facility that had been requested by the council.
The biggest complaint about animal shelters is the sound of dogs barking, Carney said. Steps have been taken in the design of the shelter to minimize that problem, she said.
"We think that you won't hear the dogs bark," she said.
In addition to building the shelter with thick walls to provide sound insulation, music would be played to soothe the animals and prevent them from hearing outside sounds that could prompt them to bark, Carney said. Dogs wouldn't be able to see anything to bark at outside their individual kennels, and they would get daily exercise to prevent boredom, she said.
The shelter would have 12 kennels for dogs, a cat room with five separate areas to segregate the animals by age and temperament, quarantine and surgery areas, a grooming area and a viewing room for people looking to adopt an animal.
"What we want to do is have a shelter that's comfortable for the animals and safe and healthy," Carney said.
The cost of the shelter is estimated at $500,000. KPFL has started a fund for the project and is "pretty confident" that the rest of the funds can be raised, Carney said.
Councilman Stu Crismore said the city-county liaison committee is recommending against granting KPFL the lease. Crismore said he received a petition signed by more than 20 people opposed to the shelter, and discussions with county officials revealed opposition there as well.
"It doesn't gel in with the dog pound," he said. "One's animal control, the other's what Pets for Life does."
Councilman Gary Huntsberger suggested that Crismore's committee put its reasons for recommending against the proposal in writing, so KPFL can respond and the rest of the council can look at both sides of the issue.
"This is a pretty sophisticated plan, and I'd like to see a little more," he said.
Councilman Doug Roll agreed that the plan is "pretty elaborate" and deserves a closer look.
"It's not just going to be some two-by-fours and some plywood stuck together," he said.
The plan should be shown to area residents, including those who signed the petition, Councilman Wally McElmurry suggested.
"If you took this to the homeowners around there and showed them what you have planned, it might make a difference too," he said.
Richard Wood, who delivered the petition to the council, said area residents don't want a second animal shelter in their neighborhood. He said he looked at KPFL's current facility in Troy and thought it was "pretty shabby," but he acknowledged that the proposed shelter looks better.
"I guess I don't want it in my back yard, and I've got 25 or 30 people who don't want it either," he said.
The council did not vote on the proposal but agreed to put the issue back on the agenda for its February meeting.
In other business, the council tabled a request from Munro Investments for a tax incentive on a new business mall at the corner of Sixth Street Extension and U.S. Highway 2.
The request was submitted last month under a state law allowing local governments to provide a tax exemption and abatement for the remodeling, reconstruction or expansion of an existing commercial building or structure that increases its value by at least 5 percent. The new mall, which will house five different businesses, is built on the site of the former Caboose restaurant and bar.
The increase in taxable value may be exempted from taxation during the construction period, not to exceed 12 months. The increase in value may be taxed at 20 percent of full value during the first year following construction, 40 percent the second, 60 percent the third, 80 percent the fourth and 100 percent the fifth year.
The county commissioners previously approved a break on county taxes for the property under the same statute.
At Monday's meeting, Roll questioned whether the law applies to the Munro building. He noted a clause requiring that the building must not have been used for business during the previous six months and said the law seems to be directed at the renovation and redevelopment of empty buildings, not new construction.
"I don't see it that way myself," said City Attorney Chuck Evans. "Otherwise they wouldn't have even mentioned the word 'reconstruction.'"
The council agreed to postpone a decision pending further research.
"I'd really like for someone to get something firm from the state to tell us what this program says," Roll said.