Open Letter to Our Friends and Supporters (March, 2018)
To: Our Supporters and Friends in Buffalo County and Beyond
As we head into the spring, our supporters have been requesting an update on the progress on the Judith and Jerome Benson Animal Shelter, which is currently under construction in Mondovi. We know that our friends in the community are as eager for the shelter to be completed as we are. Buffalo County Humane Association has been caring for the companion animals of Buffalo County for more than 20 years, and a permanent shelter building has long been our dream. Please believe that we share your frustration that the construction has been delayed when we were so close to the finish line. We truly appreciate your continued support for the project and know that we can count on all of you to step up and help carry us over the finish line.
As a reminder, reason that construction has been delayed is because we encountered two major construction-related issues during 2016. 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. Luckily, the damage to the system was covered by our insurance policy, and our insurance company committed to do whatever was necessary to get a working system in place. The installation of the new in-floor geo-thermal system was completed during the spring and summer of 2017. 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 which we encountered affected the HVAC system (heating, ventilation, and cooling), which was installed by the same contractor as the original in-floor heating system. Because of the issues with the geo-thermal 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. Because of these deficiencies in the HVAC system, the building is not able to pass the required state building inspection, which means that the building cannot be opened until the issues are resolved.
For example, one of the issues cited was that the air intake and the HVAC exhaust were installed directly adjacent to one another. (See the photos below.) This violates state building codes. In addition, the inspector reported that the flexible ducting had been installed in a non-code-compliant manner.
As part of the same review, the Board compared the system as installed against the standard recommendations for kennels and animal care facilities and found several 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 is not adequate to meet our requirements and has not been installed in accordance with state building codes. We determined that the 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 last year exploring our legal options with regards to recovering the money which had been paid to the original HVAC contractor. This required us to leave the HVAC as originally installed, as our attorney advised us that the building would be evidence in any legal action that we filed, and 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. We had hoped to recover the money through an insurance claim, but our attorney determined that there was nothing in our policy or our contractor’s policy to 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 for this:
- Filing a court case would require us to stop all work on the building 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.
- 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 spend 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).
- The board felt it was important to be realistic. It would take several years for the case to make its way through the system with no guarantee that we could actually be able to collect the money, even if we won and the court ordered full restitution.
Given these realities, the Board has determined that our best option is to simply continue moving forward. Please believe that if we had a time machine, we would go back to the beginning, ignore everyone in the community who told us “Hire someone local”, and select a different contractor. Unfortunately, time travel doesn’t exist; we can only accept the situation as it exists and go forward from here.
With the arrival of spring, the Board is launching a new fundraising campaign to raise the additional funds needed 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 is also exploring and applying for any grants which might be available to help with the 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. We have several upcoming fundraisers that need volunteers. And if you have an idea for fundraiser, please let us know and volunteer to head the committee.
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 “HVAC 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