City considering selling the facility to help pay for communications upgrade

The city of Newberg is considering selling the Newberg Animal Shelter Friends (NASF) building to help pay for upgrades to its communication system, City Manager Joe Hannan announced during the a City Council meeting in December.

Volunteers and employees of the shelter were at the meeting to voice their concerns.GARY ALLEN - The effort to construct a new animal shelter in Newberg took decades as a nonprofit group raised the money via fundraising efforts. The city of Newberg joined with the group by allotting land and additional funding for the building.

"A few months ago in a council meeting it was mentioned that selling the animal shelter was being considered," said Janet Thorn. "We inquired to the city manager … why this was being considered and the response was that it was an option on the table in order to maintain city budgeting needs. He mentioned other organizations have been approached in interest to purchase the building, but there was no other interest. ... Why would our donors to continue to support us if there are rumors of selling the building?"

Hannan spoke to the council briefly about the issue prior to the public discussion at the meeting.

"We had a little bit of discussion a few minutes ago about the animal shelter so we had some outreach to the animal shelter, letting them know in advance about it," he said. "This is not … the first time that they've heard it, but of my recommendations of looking at selling the animal shelter as far as finding the money to pay for the communications upgrade."

"When the city started to do their budget meeting, one of the items was to sell city property; the shelter was outlined as one of the buildings that they considered selling," said Crista Eberle, NASF president. "This prompted the testimony. … When we realized that the actual shelter was part of the plan was in October and started to have conversations with the city. We asked ourselves, 'what does this mean? How can we honor our donor base?'"

The animal shelter has undergone a long history of changes. For more than four decades the shelter was operated by the police department and was housed in a small building on South Blaine Street.

In the 1990s, former Newberg resident Darlyn Adams formed the NASF and began an effort to raise money to construct a new building. Ultimately, the organization raised more than $500,000 and the city kicked in $200,000 toward construction of a new building that was completed in April 2013.

Soon after the animals were moved into the new building the city dropped a bomb shell on the program.

The city decided to "cut the animal control funding, including the animal control officer, and asked us to operate the shelter," Eberle said. "We needed to access if we could do that and decided that we could because we wanted to honor the donors and animals. We began to officially operate the shelter in 2014.

"We have had great success in adoptions since taking over the operation of the shelter. Around 1,100 dogs and cats have been housed here since 2014. This year we've already reached 500 animals. This shows growth and we have grown quickly. That is awesome for us and from the operational standpoint we have done really well." In the midst of the day-to-day operations of the facility the announcement of the possible sale took NASF by surprise; the organization was not prepared for the possibility of any major changes.

In the attempt to resolve the issue NASF requested the first right of refusal on a potential sale of the facility.

"We spent $636,000 from fundraising for construction (of) the shelter since 2014," Janet Thorn told the council. "We are disappointed that the city did not approach us first as we are to renew the lease contract in 2018. We've had over 2,000 donors and have several partnerships. I am requesting the first right of refusal."

All dog control operations for Newberg and Dundee are managed by Yamhill County. However, earlier this year the county began curbing its animal control program and eliminated its animal control officers, Eberle said, adding "the nonprofits are stepping up to fill that gap."

Money from the sale of the shelter is to help pay for the WCCCA communications upgrade.

"We already had the financing, this part is about paying off that financing," Hannan said. "We purchased the land from the water fund because we are thinking that the wastewater plant might need more space. So we bought acreage and one acre of it is where we put the animal shelter."

"Now the issues is to get the appraisal," he added. "They asked for the right of refusal. What will happen is that I will present the appraisal to the council and say that they have asked for the right of first refusal."

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