At right, General Services Director for the City of Farmington, Julie Baird answers questions for, from left, Tonya Stinson, Kerwin Gober and State Rep.
At right, General Services Director for the City of Farmington, Julie Baird answers questions for, from left, Tonya Stinson, Kerwin Gober and State Rep. Tom Taylor after a tour, Friday, June 14, 2013, of the Farmington Regional Animal Shelter in Farmington. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)
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FARMINGTON — The long-awaited Farmington Regional Animal Shelter could be finished by September.

That news was greeted with smiles and sighs of relief from local officials and animal rights advocates who toured the facility's active construction site Friday afternoon. The end to the long and winding road to a modern animal shelter is finally in sight.

"It's a landmark thing to get this project going," said Rep. Tom Taylor, R-Farmington. "We've been crammed in an old facility for so long. I think this is a great location for it."

Julie Baird, the city's general services director, took the 30-person group on a tour of the facility. Although the plywood and cinder blocks still stand bare, for many in attendance, finally seeing the building layout provided a renewed sense of vision and purpose.

"It's excellent to see the physical footprint," said Mayor Tommy Roberts. "Up until now it's been more of a mental image for me. When you see the layout on the ground, you get an appreciation of the functionality of the facility."

Taking the $4.6 million project from start to finish was never an easy task, complicated recently by roughly $300,000 in increased operational costs.

San Juan County Commissioners voted earlier this month to approve $350,000 in funding for the new shelter's operations, a 30-percent increase over their previous funding level, according to a Daily Times article published online on June 5.

The increased operations costs were due to implementing a lower euthanasia rate and hiring six, full-time kennel technicians.

Although the cost increase alarmed San Juan County CEO Kim Carpenter at first, he said the situation overall seemed to be well managed.

"There's obviously progress, but we still have a long way to go," Carpenter said on Friday. " Overall, the costs seem to be contained."

For Carpenter, however, the new facility is only part of the solution.

"Just a facility is not the answer," he said. "Right now in the county, (animal control) is the largest inflationary cost in our budget."

The county is projected to spend more than $800,000 on animal control alone, Carpenter said.

County officials are considering a county-wide ordinance requiring pet owners to spay or neuter their animals, and are attempting to start a dialogue with Navajo Nation officials to begin stemming the influx of stray and sick animals into area shelters, he said.

For now, city officials are celebrating the animal shelter project's accomplishments.

"I think this is just a great opportunity," said Cory Styron, Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs department director. "We had a lot of people that came together and gave funds. Now they get to see (the progress)."

Members of the community tour the new Farmington Regional Animal Shelter, Friday, June 14, 2013, in Farmington.
Members of the community tour the new Farmington Regional Animal Shelter, Friday, June 14, 2013, in Farmington. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)

Greg Yee covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606 and gyee@daily-times.com. Follow him @GYeeDT on Twitter.