DeKalb animal shelter will soon be built

The DeKalb County Commission approved funding Tuesday to build an $8.6 million animal shelter near DeKalb-Peachtree Airport in Chamblee.

The commission voted 4-3 to use short-term loans called certificates of participation to pay for the shelter, which animal advocates have sought for years.

The vote allows the county to soon give its contractor permission to start construction of the 33,440-square-foot shelter, and then it would be built within a year.

DeKalb's existing animal shelter off Memorial Drive had serious health hazards, including bug infestations and mold, according to a 2011 report from a citizen task force. At one point, euthanasia rates topped 60 percent, though that number declined significantly after the county outsourced shelter operations in 2014.

Commissioners voting against the funding mechanism said the county was incurring debt when it could use other available funds to pay for the shelter.

“This is a great example of buy now, pay later,” said Commissioner Jeff Rader. “This is the most expensive way that we can pay for this so we can go into more debt.”

Interim DeKalb CEO Lee May said the interest rate on the bonds will be about 2.5 percent, and the loans free funding for potential employee pay raises later this year.

“It will allow us to have a more robust funding mechanism for the pay increases we’re looking to do at midyear,” May said.

Commissioner Larry Johnson, Mereda Davis Johnson, Sharon Barnes Sutton and Stan Watson voted for the funding. Commissioners Kathie Gannon, Nancy Jester and Jeff Rader voted against it.