The new county manager was in the doghouse at his first meeting with Sandoval County Commissioners on Thursday night.

Sandoval County Administration Building

Commissioners directed Sandoval County Manager Wayne Johnson to develop a long-term plan and suitable location for an animal shelter and its funding and operations.

Until this plan can be developed, Sandoval County is temporarily moving a dog shelter near the county administration building in Bernalillo.

The location of the seven-pen temporary shelter is a move from San Ysidro, confirmed Commission Chairman David Heil, District 4. The move will cost the county about $56,000, according to Anne Ryan, county community services director.

Commissioner Katherine A. Bruch, District 1, said Ryan was a leading force in this project.

“Her desire to help us has been commendable. I personally know that we continue to have some difficulties in the process of our temporary holding facility, so I know it is going to take all of us,” she said.

Commissioner Kenneth Eichwald, District 5, said the location of the permanent dog shelter will need to work with residents. Johnson said the project was going to be big and difficult.

“The public cares about their animals, and there is going to be passion involved in this,” he continued. “I am glad you brought up the location, Commissioner Eichwald. It is important to make sure the location we have this shelter — wherever that would be in the county — is compatible with the land uses around it and has substantial neighborhood support on top of that.”

The sheriff’s office is the animal-control authority in Sandoval County and will maintain the operations at the shelter, said Commissioner Jay Block, District 2.

He said due to the economic climate of the county, they will have to be creative when leveraging resources for the shelter.

“When the economy rebounds, I look forward to revisiting this in the possible future and see where the public stands,” Block said.

The new high-quality, climate-controlled tiny shelter is meant to house animals on a short-term basis before they’re returned to an owner or transferred to a permanent facility like Watermelon Mountain Ranch, he said.

“This facility will bring more space and more capabilities than our current structure,” he continued. “Beyond values, and speaking through pragmatic terms, however, our continued population growth here in Sandoval County — the fastest-growing county in the state — makes it clear that planning should have begun years ago, Mr. Chairman, but to no avail. But yet, here we are fixing yet another problem.”

Block said this commission has inherited many issues that should have been dealt with years ago, such as the detention center.

“We on the commission welcome that opportunity, and we will not kick the can down the road to future commissions till they inherit our problems,” he said.

The next Sandoval County Commission meeting is July 23 at 6 p.m.

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Assistant Editor at Rio Rancho Observer