Beaufort County and the Hilton Head Humane Association are partnering to build a $5 million animal shelter along S.C. 170 in the Okatie area.
The new shelter and animal services facility would replace the county's aging and deteriorating shelter off U.S. 21 outside Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, county administrators say.
The county is hiring Charleston-based architecture firm Glick Boehm & Associates to design a 10,000-square-foot facility for a 6-acre site on the highway between Pritcher Point and Heffalump roads next to the River's End community.
The council unanimously supported the $428,400 design contract at its meeting Tuesday.
County animal control director Tallulah Trice will lead the animal services section of the complex, deputy county administrator Josh Gruber has said. Hilton Head Humane will be responsible for spay and neutering operations and an adoption center, he added.
Exact details of how the facility will be split between the operations and the exact capabilities of each are still being developed, but county leaders and Humane Association director Franny Gerthoffer boast the new facility will be a "huge improvement" over the county's current shelter.
The county and association have partnered for the past several years with the association, handling the county shelter's adoptions and helping with neutering programs, Gerthoffer said. Building a new facility is a natural next step in that coupling, she added.
"Hilton Head Humane's ultimate goal is for Beaufort County to become a no-kill county," Gerthoffer said. "The best way to do that is this partnership with the county. That's our stake in it. We'll continue to help any way we can. We're hoping this partnership continues to get better."
The project is among the marquee improvements county administrator Gary Kubic hopes to focus on over the next two years, he said Tuesday.
"What I'd really like to do is take our time to ensure we have a full-service animal shelter," he said. "It's really just the start of a whole process. We'll meet with the stakeholders, and we'll design a facility that's set up to last 20 years and longer."
The county already has borrowed $3 million to pay for its portion of the project, and the Humane Association and Glick Boehm will lead a fundraising campaign for private contributions to pay the balance, Gruber said.
The county also bought the property for the future shelter site as part of an $850,000 land swap with its Rural and Critical Lands Program, which has preserved the stretch of woodlands and marsh behind the site up to the Okatie River banks, Gruber said. As part of the swap, the county is permitted to build on 20 acres along the highway.
Administrators expect the site will sit at the corner of the highway and Pritcher Point Road next to the future Malind Bluff commercial development. A natural wetland on the property will serve as a buffer between the new facility and River's End, Kubic added.
Another contract to build the facility will be bid on once architectural designs are finalized later this year, he said.
The new facility will not replace the Humane Association's island location, but it will greatly expand the group's capacity, Gerthoffer said.
"My goal was always to go out of business, but we can stay crowded here at 225 cats and dogs," she said. "If they build it, we'll fill it. That's unfortunate, but if I had capacity for another 225 animals, I'd fill it in a week."
"I'm looking forward to (the new facility) -- it's very invigorating," she said. "It's going to be a great meeting of the minds. We're just happy to help."
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