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FARMINGTON — As construction continues at Farmington's $4 million Regional Animal Shelter, one city councilwoman is worried that poor planning and a lack of funding could be setting the facility up for failure.

According to information provided on Monday by Assistant City Manager Bob Campbell, city officials neglected to include the cost of water, wastewater and electric utility infrastructure in the construction bid for the project.

"For some reason, they didn't get into the construction bid, but it's still within the budget," he said.

About $70,000 in contingency funds built into the facility's $4 million budget will be used to pay for the utility connections, Campbell said.

"It doesn't negatively affect the overall budget, but it was something that we would have liked to line item," he said. "I think we're on track with other expenditures."

Funding for landscaping was removed from the shelter project's budget in 2009 when city council was considering a new site, Campbell said. The city's Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs department decided that landscaping could be removed from the shelter project budget and funded instead through existing departmental funds.

City council decided last week to reallocate $105,000 toward landscaping at the new facility.

Councilwoman Mary Fischer said that news was not a good sign.

"On the positive side, the new shelter will be better than what we have now," Fischer said. "But I have serious doubts that it will meet expectations."

City officials should have had more planning and budget talks before beginning construction, she said.

"I don't think we've adequately addressed staffing," Fischer said. "One has to be fearful that this project is going to be less than satisfactory. With all the time that has lapsed in the planning, we still don't have a plan. Now we're trying to rob Peter to pay Paul. This project does not seem to have leadership or direction."

Mismanagement of the animal shelter project can be chalked up to politics, she said. The city had planned a fully functional, state-of-the-art shelter to be designed by the top shelter architect in the country and built on Crouch Mesa.

"For whatever reason, that plan was scrapped," Fischer said. "They say it was about money, but we could have built it when we still had the funds. What are we getting for this $4 million?"

Not much, she said.

"Why on Earth would an outside group like the Pet Project (a community volunteer group) have to pay for (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) or cages?" Fischer asked. "Those are very basic things, as are landscaping and parking. How are we going to do this right? That question is never answered. It's very frustrating to me to see how it's still being treated as a second-rate project. It's better than what we have, but that isn't saying much."

For Fischer, the situation could easily be corrected by having an in-depth discussion with animal welfare experts to make sure that all infrastructure and staffing components are in place and adequately funded.

"But I just see a lukewarm commitment on the part of the (city) administration," she said. "I just see a huge leadership vacuum. I have spent a career trying to make this town better, and I see it being destroyed around my feet. We spent all this time coming up with a new shelter. We're getting a C' facility when we could have had an A.'"

Mayor Tommy Roberts disagrees.

"I'm confident that the funds allocated are adequate," he said in a Monday phone interview. "All of our discussions that have led to the sale of bonds were premised on that (funding level). There was a perceived need to bring the cost of the new facility to a range of reasonableness."

The original $7.5 million project was reduced to $4 million, he said.

"The end result will be a facility that includes all design aspects that are necessary for the operating of an animal shelter in today's world," Roberts said. "The ongoing costs of operation will be a matter of budget discussion. Council has indicated in prior discussion that they intend to fund (adequately). There are aspects of the project that will be paid for with funds that are not bond proceeds. That's not unusual."

Greg Yee can be reached at gyee@daily-times.com; 505-564-4606. Follow him on Twitter www.twitter.com/GYeeDT.