Animal Shelter finds temporary location as commissioners vote to begin SPLOST project for new shelter

According to Gordon County Fire & Rescue Chief Doug Ralston, the State Fire Marshal has announced the findings into the investigation of the fire at the Gordon County Animal Shelter and has concluded that it was an unintentional fire with an undetermined cause.

According to the fire marshal, the fire definitely started in the attic area of the shelter, located at 790 Harris Beamer Road in Calhoun. The report states that while the cause of the blaze is undetermined, electrical issues cannot be ruled out.

At the most recent meeting of the Gordon County Board of Commissioners, Animal Shelter Director Sue Henson addressed the Board on temporary housing for the shelter.

“We had the misfortune of the animal shelter burn, and it was a complete loss,” said Henson. “We have made steps to find a temporary office to work out of, which we should be in permanently by Monday (April 24, 2017).”

According to Henson, the Gordon County Animal Shelter will be moving into the old EMA building on Fairmount Highway in Calhoun. “Our phone lines are up and going and we’ve mapped out a plan to get temporary boarding kennels for that site.”

“The City of Calhoun has been gracious enough to let us work out of their office the past couple of days,” said Henson. “We’ve been able to house some of our animals there, and (the City) has said that any help with overflow or anything that we need with housing, they are willing to take in what animals they can. They only have 17 cages, and they have their own (animals), but they are willing to help us in any way that they can. The animals are going to be able to be taken care of as far as housing.”

Henson also told the Board that, as of Tuesday evening, only one animal, a dog that was at the shelter during the fire, was left to be adopted or rescued.

“If I ever have a fire, I hope the firemen (with Gordon County Fire & Rescue) are the ones to respond; they helped save 23 animals. Those gentlemen jumped out there and pulled down cages to get the animals out.”

Henson thanked all of the administration, employees and commissioners that showed up during the fire; her employees, the animal rescue volunteers, the City of Calhoun Animal Control, Gordon EMT, law enforcement, and the IT department who all helped during and after the fire.

“It’s business as usual; we are going to keep the animals in Gordon County,” said Henson.

The Board was told that the insurance adjuster would be out this week to look at the old shelter.

Around 8 p.m. on April 12, Gordon County Fire & Rescue responded to a reported structure fire at the shelter. Dispatch reported that the caller could see flames and smoke in the building. When GCF&R arrived at the scene, the front side of the structure was fully engulfed in flames and the roof over the kennel area in the back of the building had heavy, thick black smoke showing.

According to GCF&R, a total of five fire engines, two tankers and 21 fire personnel responded to the blaze, along with Gordon County EMS.

The total loss of property and contents, according to the fire report, is valued at $250,000. Two cats, located in the front office area of the shelter, perished in the blaze; 23 dogs were rescued.

The Commissioners at the most recent meeting Tuesday night voted for a budget amendment to advance funds to the 2012 SPLOST to construct the new Animal Control building. SPLOST collections for the building were scheduled to being in June of this year, and run through April 2018. The county will transfer funds from the landfill budget to SPLOST to expedite the building of the shelter, replacing those funds once the SPLOST is collected. The project was approved in 2011 by voters at a cost of $1.5 million dollars, but the projection total has been reduced to $1.3 million due to the decline in SPLOST revenue over the past couple of years. County officials began touring other county animal shelters in late 2016 for planning purposes of the shelter. In comparison, Floyd County opened their SPLOST-approved animal shelter in December 2016 at a cost of $5.7 million to Floyd County taxpayers.