Originally created 02/10/02

New animal shelter awaits inmate labor



The state has placed Augusta's animal shelter on a waiting list of projects to be carried out with inmate labor, city officials learned during a visit to the Capitol last week.

But the length of that list and a shortage of funds to build the new Richmond County Animal Shelter will likely delay construction on the nearly $2 million facility until summer, or possibly later.

"It's a matter of getting on the list, and we're on it," said Mayor Bob Young, who met with corrections officials during Augusta Day, an annual event that city leaders attend in Atlanta to meet with legislators and other government officials.

But a shortage of prisoners able to operate heavy equipment and a long list of projects the Department of Corrections already has scheduled will likely delay any work in Augusta for several months, said Michael Light, spokesman for the state corrections office.

Even if Augusta pays a contractor to clear the land, level it and then pour the building's foundation, it would take several months for inmates to start construction, he said.

"There's a pretty high demand for (inmate labor) across the state," Mr. Light said.

Prisoners already are being used to build several facilities for the Corrections Department and for other communities statewide, so local construction is at the mercy of the state's timetable.

"If we had the money, we could start (building) tomorrow, but because we don't have the money we can't," said Bonnie Bragdon, director of the department of animal control.

The city set aside $1.5 million in special-purpose local option sales tax funds last year for construction of the animal shelter. Bids for the project place building costs at about $1.9 million, not including architects' fees, Dr. Bragdon said.

"We're really excited about finding funds to construct the shelter," Dr. Bragdon said. "(Inmate labor) is a viable option, and every day our positive feelings about it grow and increase."

Reach Heidi Coryell Williams at (706) 823-3215.