Ad-hoc group hears opposition for kennel location on Governor's Hill

Rusty Wills, a resident of Skyline Drive on Governor’s Hill, addresses a group looking a possible sites for a temporary animal shelter in the city. One site is located on Governor’s Hill.

A couple living on Skyline Drive presented a petition signed by neighbors to an ad-hoc group studying the issue of where to build a temporary animal shelter in the city.

Rusty and Laura Wills presented the petition  to the group signed by themselves and 17 neighbors opposing a shelter on Crossbow Road on Governor’s Hill. The ad-hoc group has narrowed the list of possible sites to include a lean-to to be built onto a building owned by the water department. The building is located at the corner of Crossbow Road and Skyline Drive.

“Everybody’s excited that we’re getting an extra kennel, but they just don’t want it in the neighborhood,” Rusty Wills told the group.

Wills said the top reason for the opposition is the “24-7” barking of dogs. Those who signed the petition also worry about the smell from the kennel and the fact that small children live in the area.

“I have a feeling they’re [children] going to run  to try to pet the dogs and parents are worried about getting dog bit,” he said.

The ad-hoc committee was formed last month when the city council tabled the issue of where to build the temporary shelter. The committee was tasked at looking at possible building sites and finding out how much it would cost.

The sites looked at were narrowed to a building at the former wastewater plant on Highway 23, the Governor’s Hill building, land purchased for a future industrial park off of Amanda Place, and a city-owned property on Cherry Lane just north of Dogwood Street.

City councilor Stephen Ford chaired the committee. Joining Ford last week were councilor Pat Grubbs, City Clerk Janice Smith, Planning Director Jennifer Thomas, Sean Davis with the water department and Public Works Superintendent Josh Murr.

“Me and my wife, after we get home or after I get home from work, we like to go and walk up and down the block and it’s peaceful and it’s quiet,” Wills said.

Wills said he and others who signed the petition thought the kennels would be on the south side of the existing building, but Ford said they would be on the north side, which is wooded and away from the streets.

“We do hope that you find a location elsewhere for the animals that is affordable and that meets all ... needs,” Wills said.

Laura Wills said she also fears that during the Madison County Fair and the annual rodeo, people will see the kennels as an excuse to dump off unwanted animals.

Ford said, “Whatever we build and wherever we build, it will be protected from the public where the kids can’t get to them. It’ll be like a double fence.”

He added, “It shouldn’t be an issue with the smell.” Grubbs added, “We’ll clean it every 24 hours.”

“We haven’t made a selection. The council will have the final approval of a site,” Ford said. The Huntsville City Council again will address the issue at its next meeting on Oct. 14.

“Our job is to find three or four locations and list where they’re located, the cost and all that, then ... we’ll let them do their homework, then at the meeting actually have a vote,” Ford said.

Police Chief Todd Thomas was absent last week but had presented “soft estimates” for building at various sites. He said costs could fluctuate like they do on any construction projects. He told Smith by text message that $1,800 could be deducted from costs if ends were left off of a lean-to.

Thomas estimated it would cost between $6,000 (on Governor’s Hill) to about $13,500 to construct a new building at the industrial park and Cherry Street sites. The prices do not include fencing and labor if done by a private contractor.

Water is available at the Cherry Street site, but would have to be installed at the proposed industrial park, which could cost more than $7,000, Davis has said. Ford said the city would be responsible for funding a new water line, while building at the industrial park could come from an industrial park fund. The Cherry Street site already has a 7-foot high fence around the three-acre site and a gate.

Ford said building at the industrial park site would leave a small footprint, with plenty of space for future development.

Huntsville has a policy where dogs would be kept a minimum of 72 hours at the kennels, during which an owner would be sought. After that, the animal would be taken to either Paws & Claws Animal Shelter or a state-approved facility in Carroll County that has shown interest in taking dogs from Madison County.

The city sends seven or eight dogs a month to Paws & Claws, and pays the shelter $180 for each animal.

Ford told the committee, “As a council person, I don’t put too much emphasis on price. We need one [shelter]. Whatever we need to do I think we should do it.” He paraphrased fellow councilor Debra Shinn and added, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”

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