NWA editorial: Barking up the right tree

Huntsville Avenue nice site for animal shelter

Posted: June 20, 2018 at 2:32 a.m.

Springdale Mayor Doug Sprouse's initial plans to build a much-needed animal shelter in J.B. Hunt Park sounded visionary in the build-up to February's citywide bond election. Voters apparently recognized the shelter on Randall Wobbe Lane is inadequate to meet the community's needs now and into the future.

But that J.B. Hunt location? Right around election time, the voices of nearby residents threatened to put Sprouse and the City Council in the political doghouse. As of a week ago, the City Council crossed J.B. Hunt park off the list of possibilities.

What’s the point?

Availability of a site on Huntsville Avenue shows a great deal of promise for the animal shelter the city’s voters got behind last February.

It's clear the voters who laudably went to the polls last February overwhelmingly saw the good sense of building a new shelter. Sprouse and other city leaders asked them to include $5.2 million in the bond issue election to build what Sprouse described as a new kind of shelter, one that consultants recommended should be in a high-profile location and should be designed in a way that showcases the animals to potential adopters.

We applaud the city for doing everything in its power to ensure its animal shelter actually serves as ... well ... an actual shelter to animals in need. That means not killing animals whose only dire circumstance is the lack of good homes. And the city's plan to amp up the profile of the shelter made a convincing case that Springdale was devoting itself to the welfare of these unfortunate dogs and cats.

Once the J.B. Hunt site was out of the picture, there was certainly reason to be concerned. City leaders began discussions about a piece of land the city already owns on Springdale's east side, in an area of town certainly more industrial than the park setting originally envisioned. Will Springdale spend $5 million on a shelter only to put it in a location that's less likely to draw the kind of day-to-day attention originally envisioned? It's not that it's a bad location; it's just not as good as we think the city of Springdale deserves for what promises to be an outstanding animal shelter.

Complicating the possible location is the soil conditions. To address them enough to make construction feasible may cost $500,000, according to early estimates. Unexpected costs can sometimes be a natural part of the public decision-making process, but if you're going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a site, it seems wise to check off as many boxes as possible on other desired attributes.

Most recently, the most promising news is the availability of land in a far more accessible location that also fronts one of Springdale's busiest streets. The owner of land on Huntsville Avenue west of Central Junior High School says he'll sell the dozen-acre site to the city for $750,000.

Sprouse said this week the land is more than what's needed for the shelter, but the remainder will be a perfect location for a small park that's already on the future route of the Pride of Springdale trail that will connect Springdale High School to Har-Ber High.

Keep in mind, too, that Springdale's animal control officers dispatch from the shelter, making the Huntsville Avenue location a spot more amenable to reaching the whole of the city.

Tuesday evening, the City Council's Finance Committee, which includes all eight council members (seems public bodies in Northwest Arkansas don't really get the concept of committees), asked Sprouse to continue working toward more detailed information about the Huntsville Road site, which is promising. Knowing what we know today, that site appears to be an outstanding fulfillment of the vision pitched before the election to Springdale voters, who admirably backed $5 million-plus to address the city's animal control and adoption needs well into the future.

We're pulling for the Huntsville Road location because of its high visibility, which is key to Springdale's development of an animal shelter that will be successful in finding more adopters for pets, and useful location within the city. With the investment the city's voters have decided to make, there's no sense tucking the shelter away someplace with a lower profile.

Commentary on 06/20/2018