Open Letter to Our Friends and Supporters (Oct, 2017)
To: Our Supporters and Friends in Buffalo County and Beyond
As we head into the fall, this is a good time to update you on the progress of the Judith and Jerome Benson Animal Shelter, currently under construction in Mondovi. We know, because you all keep asking us, that the community is as eager for the shelter to be completed as we are. This is a dream that we have followed for many years and a construction project that is already two years in the making. As you might recall from our last update, the reason that the construction has taken so long is that we encountered two major construction-related issues last year. We would like to update you on the resolution of those issues.
The first issue affected the in-floor heating system, which is powered by geo-thermal energy. Over the winter and spring of 2016, this system developed a number of leaks. The experts told us that the original system could not be repaired and should be completely replaced. We were lucky in that the damage to the system was covered by our insurance policy, and our insurance company committed to work with us to do whatever was necessary to get a working system in place.
We are pleased to be able to report that all of the work required to install the new in-floor geo-thermal system was completed over the course of this spring and summer. The new system has been installed, the new floors have been poured, and all necessary changes to doors and building have been completed. We would like to thank our contractors for all of their hard work completing this project.
The second issue affected the HVAC system (heating, ventilation, and cooling), which was installed by the same contractor as the original in-floor heating system. The Board requested an inspection of the HVAC system, and the inspector reported several deficiencies, including some items which were installed in a non-code compliant manner. Additionally, some elements of the system as installed did not match the original HVAC plan as approved by the state. These issues made it very likely the building would fail the required state building inspection, which would prevent us from opening.
As part of our review, the Board compared the original system as installed against the standard recommendations for kennels and animal care facilities. We found a number of insufficiencies in the plan, including a lack of air flow separation animal and human areas of the facility and an inadequate number of air exchanges in the animal care areas. Based upon these findings, it became clear that the HVAC already installed in the building was not adequate to meet our requirements and had not been installed in accordance with state building codes. We determined that our only option is to start over with a redesigned HVAC system and completely new installation. Anything less would endanger the animals entrusted to our care.
The Board has spent much of this spring and summer exploring our legal options with regards to recovering the money which had been paid to the original HVAC contractor for installation of the system. Upon the advice of our attorney, we left the HVAC system as originally installed while we considered our options, because the building itself would be an important piece of evidence if we decided to file a court case. Any changes made to the system by our new contractor might be considered tampering with the evidence if we eventually decided to go to court to recover the money.
The board believed that our best hope to recover the money was through an insurance claim, so our attorney examined both our policy and the contractor’s policy looking for a basis for a claim. Unfortunately, there was nothing in either policy that would cover our exact situation.
Once we knew that an insurance claim was not possible, the board discussed filing a court case against our contract, as our own basic sense of fairness demanded that we should try to recover the money. In the end, however, the board decided not to pursue legal action against our original HVAC contractor. There are three primary reasons that led us to make this decision. First, filing a court case would require us to keep the building as is while the case made its way through the system, as the building is the evidence. This would prevent us from doing the work needed to actually complete the building, which would mean still more delays in opening the shelter for use. Second, filing a court case would require us to hire an expert witness to testify to the lack of quality in the existing work. This would require us to expend several thousand dollars now in the hopes of recovering it later, and we felt that there are better uses for our limited resources (such as providing the animals already in our care). Lastly, the board felt it was important to be realistic about our situation. Even if we won, it would take several years for the case to make its way through the system. And even if the court ordered full restitution, there is no guarantee that we would be able to actually collect the money from our contractor. Given these realities, the board has decided to accept that we cannot change what happened in the past; we can only take the situation as it exists and start moving forward.
What does this mean for the future of the shelter? On the good side, it means that the pause in the work at the building is over. Our contractors have already started to remove parts of the system that cannot be re-used and to install the insulation. On the bad side, it means that BCHA will need additional funds to complete the building. While there is still some money remaining from the original campaign, those funds have already been allocated to other parts of the project. The board will be exploring and applying for any grants which might be available to help with the system. We will also be launching a new fund-raising campaign focusing on the new HVAC system.
What can you do to help? The most important that all of us can do is to give. If you can afford to donate, please give to the fund-raising campaign. Any amount will help. Consider pledging to give a little bit every month. While it might be hard to give $100 today, you might be able to give $10 every month (which is $120 over the course of year).
If you can’t afford to donate money, please give your time to BCHA as a volunteer. Right now, BCHA has several needs just waiting for the right volunteers.
- Foster homes: BCHA needs foster homes for our animals, particularly the cats. If you have a room that could house a feline visitor, we have several older shy cats that would benefit from your care.
- Computer skills: BCHA has a website that has been under construction for several months; if you know WordPress, you could help finish it.
- Organization skills: BCHA has a fundraising campaign, a bake sale, and a few other events scheduled over the next few months. A volunteer to help plan and organize any one of them would be most welcome.
- People skills: BCHA hosts an adoption fair at Petco almost every Saturday. Additional people to help set up, tear down, and work during the fair would be welcome.
- Dog-handling skills: BCHA picks up stray dogs throughout Buffalo County, but most of our volunteers are concentrated in the northern section of the county. Volunteers in the southern part with experience working with dogs would be a great help in serving the community.
- Lawn care / snow removal: The area around the shelter building would benefit from a mow to control the weeds as we head into fall and winter (think a tractor with a mower rather than a personal mower). Likewise, once the snow starts to fall, a volunteer to help with snow removal around the building would be very welcome
If you are able to donate and/or volunteer, you can contact us through our Facebook page (Facebook.com/bchapets) or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can accept donations via the Donate button on our Facebook page, via PayPal (send it to our email address), or by mail. Send your donation to BHCA, PO Box 4, Mondovi, WI 54755. Write “building fund” on the memo line of your check so that we know to allocate it to the campaign.
Thank you once again for your support and understanding as BCHA works through the issues that have arisen with the new shelter building. We have been working toward this goal for so long; we are determined to see it through and make the Jerome and Judith Benson Animal Shelter a reality.
Board of the Buffalo County Humane Association