As the City Council vote on funding the Attleboro Animal Shelter project approaches, there has been some action taking place behind the scenes that could mean at least some councilors are concerned about the $1.16 million price tag.
Several sources contacted Attleboro Patch saying City Councilor Brian Kirby, who heads the council's Budget and Appropriations Committee, was trying to form a voting bloc to reject Mayor Kevin Dumas' proposal for the city to seek a $1.16 million loan to fund the construction of a 3,600-square-foot facility. He wants the price of the project to go down closer to the city's original $600,000 estimate, sources say.
"There is nothing I can do to bring down the cost of the animal shelter," wrote Kirby in an email response to a request for comment from Attleboro Patch. "But because the public hearing is closed, I cannot comment further."
Kirby's oath of silence apparently does not apply to The Sun Chronicle. He told the newspaper he and other councilors have had "sticker shock," but that he would not oppose the loan order, according to an article published Saturday.
Barry LaCasse, the city's finance director, issued a memo to councilors Friday with a timeline of how the cost estimate was reached (the memo is attached to this article). He wrote that the memo was in response to Councilor Mark Cooper's "request for an explanation on the evolution of the cost estimates for the proposed new animal shelter."
LaCasse wrote, "It is certainly understandable that a cost estimate of $1.1m for an animal shelter would raise questions. However, animal shelters require certain features not found or required in more traditional municipal buildings. Well designed animal shelters, for example, will require more sound barrier construction; separate HVAC systems for administrative and animal areas to ensure proper air quality throughout the building; numerous floor drains; and flooring that must be durable, easily cleanable, resilient and non-absorbent, just to name a few."
Cooper did not immediately respond to a Friday afternoon email from Patch requesting comment.
The original cost estimate for the project was $600,000. While receiving bids for the design of the project in March, the Municipal Building Commission learned that contractors believed the price would be much higher, according to LaCasse's memo.
Building Commission Chair Jack Jacobi told the council that the cost would be significantly higher than originally estimated at a public meeting in June. Jay DiLisio was the only councilor to respond with concern.
"I just want to see where we overshot so badly, what was behind it," said DiLisio at a meeting that came one week after Jacobi revealed the updated cost estimate.
He added, "In no way am I taking away my support for this project. I just want to make sure that we're doing what we need to do to make sure we are being, as we've said so many times, the stewards of the funds of the city."
A public hearing on the loan order took place Tuesday. More than 100 people came to the council chambers to support the project. Nobody spoke in opposition, although one resident said he believed the project cost was too high. The council will vote on the funding next Tuesday. At least eight councilors must vote for the loan order for it to be approved.