Government & Politics

KC park board approves land for new animal shelter

The Kansas City park board on Tuesday approved Swope Park land for a new animal shelter. Animal lovers say it’s needed to replace an antiquated facility on Raytown Road. At an event last week promoting the proposal, Kansas City Councilwoman Teresa Loar gave some extra attention to Lambykins, a year-old beagle.
The Kansas City park board on Tuesday approved Swope Park land for a new animal shelter. Animal lovers say it’s needed to replace an antiquated facility on Raytown Road. At an event last week promoting the proposal, Kansas City Councilwoman Teresa Loar gave some extra attention to Lambykins, a year-old beagle. jledford@kcstar.com

The Kansas City park board agreed Tuesday that the preferred site for a new city animal shelter should be on seven acres within Swope Park, at Gregory Boulevard and Elmwood Avenue.

“The spot is there,” Parks Department Director Mark McHenry said. “It’s open space, perfect.”

Kansas City animal lovers have been looking for a location to build a new animal shelter, to replace what’s considered to be a horribly crowded and outdated construction trailer at 4400 Raytown Road.

When the park board wants to sell parkland, it requires a vote of the people. But the park board has the authority on its own to approve land for a public purpose like this, McHenry said. That portion of the park is at the northeast corner of Gregory and Elmwood, near Lakeside Nature Center and the disc golf course, and is well situated for an animal shelter, he said.

Now, McHenry acknowledged, the main issue will be “coming up with the money to build it.”

That process is likely to require a public vote.

The city is proposing to build a “first class” shelter that could cost $17 million, although the design isn’t completed yet and it may be “value engineered” to reduce the cost as much as possible. City Manager Troy Schulte has said the animal shelter may be part of a giant general obligation bond authorization that voters would be asked to approve at an election next April.

The city might be asked to contribute as much as $14 million for the shelter, with the private sector contributing $3 million for construction and $7 million more for a maintenance endowment.

Last Thursday, numerous civic leaders and animal lovers gathered at Starlight Theatre for the announcement about the animal shelter plans. They enthusiastically endorsed spending for a humane and adequate place for the city’s neglected animals. The project would be a partnership with KC Pet Project, which has managed the existing animal shelter for the city for nearly five years, and which has numerous volunteers and donors.

But since Thursday, some critics have questioned the $14 million proposed cost to taxpayers, suggesting that money would be better spent on infrastructure or services for people rather than for animals.

At Tuesday’s park board meeting, neighborhood leader Pat Clarke told parks commissioners that he has spent the past four years trying to rally City Hall’s support for a softball complex, for an adult softball league, at 69th Street and Elmwood in Swope Park.

He said adults now have to spend their money in Johnson County, Liberty and other suburbs, while a central city location like Swope Park would be ideal.

“Now I’m hearing about a dog shelter,” he said, asking how long plans like his will keep getting shuffled to the back burner.

Some neighbors near Gregory and Elmwood have worried in the past about an increase in dogs running at large and other problems if the shelter is located near their homes. But representatives of KC Pet Project have said that is not a significant problem at their current location and should not be with a new facility.

Roshann Parris, a public relations executive who has generated civic support for the new shelter, was at Tuesday’s park board vote. She said afterward that the people working to raise money and support for the animal shelter also devote considerable time and attention to human needs, social services and other priorities for people, and that will not change or be diminished.

“No one will substitute one effort for another,” she said.

Lynn Horsley: 816-226-2058, @LynnHorsley

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