State lawmaker pushes Orange County to build new animal shelter

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — A state lawmaker is calling on the Orange County Board of Commissioners to honor a previous Board’s wishes and move forward with building a new animal shelter.

Investigative Reporter Karla Ray first exposed interior temperatures in the upper 90s inside the shelter back in 2016, and last month was first to report that the project is on hold indefinitely; one of only two capital projects in the county put on pause due to the pandemic.

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Now, we’ve learned county leaders are budgeting $250,000 to do another assessment to find out the best way to move forward.

State Representative Rene Plasencia questions why that’s necessary, when just 18 months ago, the county had selected a design firm to move forward with plans, right before the pandemic hit.

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In the dog days of summer, Orange County Animal Services’ shelter is sweltering, even after the addition of a ventilation system meant to be a holdover until a new facility could be built.

“As someone who has spent a lot of time at the shelter, I want to make sure our stray animals are treated a certain way,” Representative Plasencia said.

Plasencia sent a letter to County Commissioners after Channel 9 reported last month that money previously budgeted for a new animal shelter was being put on hold indefinitely. The letter states, in part, “While we all knew and understand to this day that the new shelter would not be built overnight… other large Florida counties have recognized and acted on the need for much larger and state of the art animal shelter facilities, and even counties with a lesser need, such as Lake County, have constructed new facilities.”

“It’s not acceptable, Broward County made the right decision to build a new facility with air conditioning, and especially since a previous Mayor and previous County Commission made that decision,” Plasencia said.

Current Mayor Jerry Demings took issue with that letter. “If you’re going to write in, write in with accurate information,” Mayor Demings said.

During a budget presentation last week, county staff revealed that though a new building isn’t in the budget plan for this year, another assessment to determine the best way to move forward is, at a potential cost of $250,000.

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“One, we have no idea if a $34-million pricetag that was estimated back 5 years ago is still a reasonable number or not, and two, we want to know, is there anything we’ve learned to provide the best environment for those animals in our care,” County Administrator Byron Brooks said.

Brooks went on to say that after an assessment is completed, whatever version of the project is deemed the best move could go out for a request for production in the fall.

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Karla Ray

Karla Ray,

Karla Ray anchors Eyewitness News This Morning on Saturday and Sundays, and is an investigative reporter for the 9 Investigates unit.