Farmington — Empty orange chairs sit back-to-back in the waiting room at the new Farmington Regional Animal Shelter. Cabinets are empty. Computers are unplugged. Long shadows reach down vacant hallways that will soon house abandoned dogs and feral cats.
The shelter, which is located on Browning Parkway near Animas Park, is the city's solution to its animal influx.
"We're still at a point where only 50 percent of the animals that come in (the old shelter) leave," said Cory Styron, director of the city's Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department.
The other half, he said, are euthanized.
The new shelter is nearly complete. All utilities have been installed, and workers are now securing cages, moving dirt and hooking up phones and computers.
When it opens in mid-November, the shelter will hold a maximum of 358 animals.
The old shelter held a maximum of 146 animals, but, at times, it teamed with almost 200.
Almost twice the size of the old building, the new 14,542-square-foot shelter includes a 1,125-square-foot intake garage, a crematorium and many rooms. There is a community room for pet education, as well as rooms for "cat condos;" dog adoptions; feral cats and dogs; sicks animals; and boa constrictors and other exotic animals. An atrium in the shelter's center is set aside for outside play, and the old spay and neuter double-wide trailer has been hauled to the northwest side of the shelter.
So far, the city has no plans for the old shelter, Styron said.
"It's really an old building," he said. "If it were mine, I'd bulldoze it."
Under the roof of the new shelter, the city hopes to spay and neuter 1,500 to 2,000 animals, he said.
The city will offer income-based surgeries for shelter animals only through the low- to no-cost spay-neuter guidelines city council passed at its meeting Tuesday.
There are four fee categories to spay or neuter an animal: $85, $60, $30 and no-cost. An animal owner who earns $60,000 to $50,001 after taxes will pay the highest fee, according to a Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs document. An animal owner who earns less than $20,000 after taxes will pay no fee, according to the document.
All residents of the county are eligible, according to the document.
For the $4.6 million building, the city joined with the state of New Mexico and San Juan County, Styron said. New Mexico contributed $2.74 million in severance tax bonds, the county put forward $650,000 and the city paid $680,000 in bonds, he said.
For landscaping, the city's Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department spent from its capital fund $105,000; for the shelter's data connections the city spent about $9,000 from its fiber project; and for all of the shelter's new equipment -- desks, tables, chairs, dish washers, cages -- Pet Project, a private donor, spent less than $433,000, Styron said.
The city will pay a full-time veterinarian a $70,000 salary and $20,300 in staff benefits, according to a Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs document. The city also plans to hire 20 other staff, 11 of whom will be part-time, Styron said.
The city will also spend $32,420 for surgeries and various medical supplies, according to the document.
Mayor Tommy Roberts is optimistic that the new shelter will lessen the flood of feral, homeless and unwanted animals the city holds and euthanizes at its shelter. The shelter's new executive director, Stacie Voss, also has experience increasing shelter live-release rates, according to a city press release.
Marcy Eckhardt, consultant and acting director of the shelter, did not return phone calls for comment by press time.
From January to March, the old animals shelter euthanized 478 cats and dogs. In June, it put down 29 percent of its captured animals. In July, 20 to 40 animals per day swarmed shelter.
"This is a rural community, and there's a large spectrum of animal lovers in the community," Styron said. "What we're trying to do is get everybody on the same level of responsibility."