Humane Society Building Going to the Dogs

City of Española officials aim to repair the local animal shelter’s roof after long-standing leaks were ignored.

“The shelter building that we manage on your behalf is suffering from decades of deferred maintenance,” Bridget Lindquist, executive director of the Española Valley Humane Society, told city councilors, Aug. 9, during a regular City Council meeting.

“Prolonged water damage is causing ceiling tiles to fall unexpectedly, particularly during inclement weather,” the repairs list states. “Mold has accumulated in the ceiling and may be a health hazard to employees and customers.”

City Manager Mark Trujillo said he expects the shelter’s roof to be repaired this week. Lindquist said in a phone interview Monday, she had been providing monthly notifications to former city manager Kelly Duran, with no response. Trujillo took office in mid-June.

“Somehow there was a bottleneck between that office and the city council,” Lindquist said. “I felt like the city councilors heard me, and in many cases they were seeing that list for the first time (on Aug. 9).”

The heating, ventilation and air conditioning system on the roof of the Society’s animal shelter failed in early July, according to a list of outstanding facility repairs presented to the council.

When asked why the Society’s requests for repairs were ignored, Trujillo said on Monday, that the requests did not reach the city staff who needed to be made aware of the problems.

“I apologize that I hadn’t made it there sooner,” Trujillo said. “I was very surprised and very disappointed by the condition of the ceiling.”

The pipes from the old heating system still hang above the kennels, about 18 months after the Society asked the city to remove them, shelter Operations Director Lisa Gipe said on Aug. 10. Lindquist said the old pipes prevent shelter staff from replacing ceiling tiles. Trujillo said they will be replaced once the leaks are all sealed.

Because of the ceiling, the shelter has, on occasion, closed the kennel to the public, for fear of legal liability, Lindquist said.

Trujillo said the heating and air conditioning was repaired by city workers on Monday. Neither Trujillo nor General Services Supervisor Ronald Martinez know what company installed the system in 2015, or whether the equipment has a warranty.

The system was installed in 2015 by an outside company, Martinez said Monday, but he did not know from memory what company did the installation or whether the equipment has a warranty.

“It doesn’t seem like a big deal now, but the last time that happened, it literally took eight months for them to replace it,” Gipe said. “In December, I’ve got staff cleaning with hats and coats on back there. Anything under 20 pounds has to wear a coat, so all of our dogs are dressed in the winter and space heaters are brought out.”

The city removed the old heating unit in September 2015, but did not complete any other repairs until April of this year, when they replaced a faucet in the kennel, and replaced light bulbs and ceiling panels in the shelter’s front office, according to the repair list. No repairs have been completed since then, despite monthly written notifications to the city.

“Air conditioning for animals is arguably a luxury, but certainly heat is not,” Lindquist told city councilors. “I just wanted to put this list in front of you because I feel like it might get lost in the shuffle.”

Trujillo said on Aug. 9, he and the city’s General Services Department will visit the shelter to fix “some, if not all, of these issues.” On Monday, he said the shelter’s lighting and electrical outlets were replaced.

The city has hired the Society to take in animals brought to the shelter by local residents and animal control, since 1992, Lindquist said.

On Aug. 9, city councilors unanimously voted to renew the contract with the Society, which requires the city to pay the organization $70,000 in Fiscal Year 2017, plus utilities, to run the shelter.

The contract makes the city responsible for all repairs and maintenance and monthly inspections of the building and the land, which the city owns.

“For non-essential repairs and maintenance, the Contractor (the Society) shall provide written notification to the City,” the contract states. “The City will perform these repairs and maintenance within 30 days of receiving written notice.”

The city is supposed to repair any emergency problems that threaten animals or staff within 48 hours of the Society bringing the problems to the city’s attention, unless they can agree on an extension, according to the contract.

Shelter’s expenses greater than income

Rio Arriba County has had a similar agreement with the Society since the mid-1990s, Lindquist said. It will pay the Society $75,000 in Fiscal Year 2017.

“I don’t want to add to the city’s or the County’s financial woes,” Lindquist said. “We’ve been operating the shelter, itself, at a deficit.”

The shelter cost $430,000 to run in Fiscal Year 2015, she said. Along with the shelter, the Society’s 32 employees run a clinic next door, a network of foster homes and two thrift stores in Santa Fe that make enough money to keep the entire operation running.

On any given day, 60 to 70 dogs and nearly 20 cats can be found in the shelter. About 2,700 animals arrive each year, and about 83 percent are either adopted, transferred or returned to their owners.

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