City of Tyler Manager Mark McDaniel entered into a sales contract of $550,000 for the possible purchase of 10 acres of land to be used for a future animal care facility Thursday, according to a press release from the city.

The City Council authorized the City manager to take this action during Wednesday's regularly scheduled City Council meeting. The property is located at 4218 Chandler Highway.

The City began investigating the potential of purchasing this parcel after ending discussions with the SPCA about building a new facility on land that was donated to them. An assessment of the property offered by the SPCA revealed that more than $400,000 would need to be invested for infrastructure before construction of a new 10,000 square foot facility could begin.

"The infrastructure costs with the lot on the SPCA property were prohibitive," said McDaniel. "Also, in exchange for the land, the City would have had to donate to the SPCA a $375,000 building that we recently constructed nearby."

"Not only would we have to put in $400,000 to get started, we would then have significant construction costs for a new building," said Tyler Mayor Barbara Bass. "The property we are interested in off of Hwy 31 already has a 20,000 square foot building on it and ALL infrastructure is in place. We feel this makes much more financial sense than the lot offered by the SPCA."

A City Lean Six Sigma project estimated minimal requirements for a City-owned animal care facility to be 10,000 square feet with a capacity to hold 75 dogs and 50 cats at one time. Currently the City contracts with a facility in Jacksonville for animal sheltering. The 2012-2013 animal services contract cost to the City of Tyler was $567,500, with an estimated 42 percent cost increase for a new contract, based on growing animal intake and estimates.

"Our current contract for these services is short term," added Bass. "It is imperative that we locate an option that is not only financially feasible, but that can also be opened quickly."

The City had previously evaluated this same property for a different project that did not come to fruition.

"We knew a lot about this property, so it quickly came to mind when we were looking for potential sites," said City Manager Mark McDaniel. "We also knew that the SPCA has previously considered the location, but that ultimately they did not purchase it because they received other land as a donation."

The City approached the broker for the property, City Councilmember Mark Whatley, and asked that he contact the bank that owned the property to see if an acceptable cost could be negotiated. Consequently, in compliance with State law and City policy, Whatley abstained from voting on this issue during the Council meeting and submitted an affidavit of interest.

The sales contract the City entered into allows for 30 days to evaluate the property.

"During this 30-day window, we will be determining the costs of renovation to prepare the structures for this new purpose," added McDaniel. "This will help us make the final decision of whether to purchase the property."

Freese and Nichols, a professional architectural and engineering firm, has been contracted to execute a programing and schematic design to determine preliminary costs, the needs of the facility, and how the building and grounds would function.

"Provided the report from the architectural firm confirms our initial assessment of the adaptability of the site, we anticipate the location we are considering will be much more affordable for the City and therefore our taxpayers," added Bass. "We have a responsibility to do what is in the best interest of Tyler and that is what we are pursuing."

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