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New Haywood animal shelter on the fast track

The Haywood County Fairgrounds is being eyed as the possible site for a new county animal shelter.

The fairgrounds was identified as a potential site by county leaders unbeknownst to the Haywood County Fair Board, who may have reservations about whether it’s compatible.

Commissioner Mark Swanger said the site would be ideal, however. It is centrally located, flat, has water and sewer, no immediate neighbors and most importantly, the county already owns the land, Swanger said.

A public hearing on the proposed location will be held at 5:30 p.m. Monday, April 20, at the historic courtroom in Waynesville.

Animal advocates pitched the idea of a new shelter to county commissioners late last year. Commissioners endorsed the idea in concept, and it has since moved ahead rapidly. The county has not only chosen a potential site, but also hired Waynesville architect Randy Cunningham of Mountain Designs to begin schematics.

The new animal shelter would be bigger and more modern than the current utilitarian, concrete-block shelter, which dates to the 1980s. The shelter needs more space, according to Haywood County Animal Control Director Jean Hazzard, despite a 35 percent decline in the number of animals coming through the shelter now compared to three years ago.

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The cost is unknown — it depends on the size, the design and final site. It would likely be more then $2 million, however. County leaders have cited a $1.1 million animal shelter built in Transylvania County last year, but added that Haywood’s would be bigger than that.

How much of the cost county taxpayers would foot is also unknown. A funding campaign by Friends of the Haywood County Animal Shelter will raise a portion of the cost.

Commissioners have postulated that donors will step up, but likewise, have indicated the county stands ready to contribute.

“Haywood County has a demographic that would support this project. We have a lot of retired people and most of them have animals,” Swanger said.

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