After years of discussion, the cost of a proposed new animal shelter, may end up on the ballot as a special bond election on Nov. 2 after the Copperas Cove City Council gave final direction to the city on how it wishes to proceed with the shelter on Tuesday evening.
In order for the cost of the project to be on the election, the council will need to take action by Aug. 16.
There are two more scheduled meetings for the council to meet prior to the Aug. 16 deadline — Aug. 3 and Aug. 10.
The proposed shelter would cost the city approximately $3.8 million, several million dollars lower than when it was originally proposed to the council in 2017.
After the council’s last discussion in the previous meeting on July 6, council members reached a consensus that they wanted to issue the debt with certificates of obligation, which only require notice from the city to its residents of the intent to incur debt for a specific amount of money.
On Tuesday, City Manager Ryan Haverlah told the council that issuing the debt through general obligation bonds, or a vote by residents, was the only viable option for the city because of new state legislation that takes effect Sept. 1.
“The use of certificates of obligation proceeds to construct a new facility for animal control is not an eligible use under certificates of obligation without the repayment of that debt coming from the general fund versus the debt service fund,” Haverlah said.
Council members voted 4-2 to direct the city to seek a special bond election.
Voting in favor were: Joann Courtland, Fred Chavez, Vonya Hart and Jack Smith.
Voting against were: Dan Yancey and Dianne Campbell.
Councilman Jay Manning was not present at the meeting.
Prior to approving the motion, the proposed shelter was discussed at length after a reminder by Yancey of a possible partnership with Fort Hood.
“One of the things that was initially talked about, and hasn’t been fleshed out at this particular point in time, is — if I’m not mistaken — that Fort Hood is wanting to work with Copperas Cove on potentially partnering with an animal control facility,” Yancey said.
Haverlah confirmed that by saying that Fort Hood had requested the city provide a proposal to take animals it cannot keep past 72 hours.
“We have provided that initial proposal to Fort Hood. I think we received an initial response from them yesterday, but I have not evaluated that fully, nor have we responded to any of it,” Haverlah said.
He added that Fort Hood had acknowledged that it would have to pay for the service, up to and including capital investments, which includes facilities and vehicles as well as human resources, additional positions and operating costs.
“If that’s the case, I think we deserve to flesh that out a little bit more and see if we can tap into that resource,” Yancey said.
He added that if there is a potential extra funding source, he believes the city is selling itself short by putting the measure on the ballot now, knowing that there is a potential that it could fail.
Deputy Police Chief Brian Wyers, who has been tasked with providing a plan the council can agree on, responded to what Yancey said.
“I understand your concern on that,” Wyers said. “The one thing I want council to understand is the shelter I proposed was a shelter that is built to service the size of Copperas Cove. If we add on Fort Hood and take on that additional responsibility, don’t expect me to come back with a $3.8 million price tag, because you’re looking at a $6-8 million facility again.
“And you’re right, we will have funding from Fort Hood, but that funding could be drawn out over several years, and then we’d go to the city for a bond election, and we’re going for an $8 (million) or $9 million price tag. I mean, it feels like I’m kicking the can again.”
Wyers added that there is no guarantee that a partnership would even get done, all the while the city is in dire need of a new animal shelter as the current one keeps receiving “Band-Aids.”
The current animal shelter, which is overseen by the Cove PD, is located at 1601 N. First St. in Copperas Cove and has space for 46 dogs and 12 cats. The new facility would increase capacity to 66 dogs and 40 cats.
Smith, who has been in favor of a general obligation bond from the beginning and who made the motion that prevailed, chimed in after Wyers spoke.
“It’s built to expand already, so I don’t see anything wrong with getting it on the November ballot right now,” Smith said. “It’s easily expandable, and if Fort Hood wanted to use our animal shelter right now, they couldn’t use it — or probably wouldn’t want to use it. If we have this one, they may be more willing to partner with us and help us pay for the expansion to take care of their animals.
“I think it deserves a vote. And we’re on a time crunch to get it on the ballot by November.”
Yancey responded by saying he believes the city is rushing to get it on the ballot.
After about 15 more minutes of discussion amongst themselves and with Wyers, the council members decided to vote on the motion, which ultimately prevailed 4-2 in a roll-call vote.