Businessmen may have solved city’s animal shelter dilemma

Manassas is nearing a solution to its lack of animal shelter services, with a group of local businessmen offering to build a shelter and lease it to the city.

Church Street Development LLC is proposing a 8,500-square-foot animal shelter near the corner of Dean Drive and Wellington Road. The shelter would be run by Waggin’ Tails Junction, the former Lake Jackson Kennels, which will also have its own building on the site.

“The city will get a package of services together,” said Manassas lawyer Mike Vanderpool, one of the members of the business group. “And they won’t have to put any costs up front.”

The City Council will vote July 21 on whether to award a contract for the building of the shelter.

At a Wednesday night work session of the council’s Finance Committee, City Manager Lawrence Hughes said he thought there was a good chance Prince William County might sign a contract to use the shelter. At this time, the county’s only animal shelter is next to its landfill in Independent Hill.

Police Capt. Stephen F. Bamford, who has been working on the shelter issue, said he had a letter from Manassas Park City Manager David Reynal expressing interest in the project as well.

Getting a veterinarian to sublease space at the shelter is another possibility that is being looked at, Vanderpool said.

“There will be a built-in income stream for a veterinarian that wants to have a business here,” he said.

Since the beginning of the year, Manassas and Manassas Park have been without a permanent animal shelter to house the more than 1,000 stray dogs, cats and other animals picked up around the cities every year. For now, stray animals in Manassas and Manassas Park are being transported to the county’s shelter, located nine miles away.

Morganna Animal Clinic, located on Liberia Avenue in Manassas, announced last year that it was discontinuing its 23-year relationship with the cities. Wary about getting into the shelter business, the City Council directed city staff to find another veterinary clinic willing to sign a contract with the city. In the end, Church Street Development was the only entity to approach the city with an offer.

The leasing option, which would last for 10 years, would cost the city almost $241,000 per year, utility costs not included. After 10 years, the city would take ownership of the shelter and the land under it.

The price tag is much more than the almost $50,000 per year the city paid Morganna. And yet city officials believe it’s a better option than the city building and running its own shelter. If all goes as planned, the shelter will be up and running by the end of the year.

“I think it’s a good thing that we’ve got a partnership going,” said Councilman Robert (Bob) Oliver. “And it’s going to benefit both partners.”

Staff writer Chris Newmarker can be reached at (703) 369-6703.