A large crowd of animal lovers along with local and state political leaders attended Monday afternoon’s special ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Baldwin County Animal Shelter.
The new animal shelter, which now houses dogs and cats, is the same building that once housed inmates as the county jail before a new facility was built.
Baldwin County Commission Chairman John H. Westmoreland said the old building was repurposed as the county’s new animal shelter, which had been needed for many years.
“There’s still a few things that need to be done, but overall we’ve got a great facility,” Westmoreland said, adding that he appreciated the large turnout of those who attended the ceremony.
Baldwin County Manager Carlos Tobar, who was responsible for overseeing the project that was funded by the county’s Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), said there were a lot of people to thank for the new animal shelter.
Tobar said said the new animal shelter was a long time coming.
“First of all, we want to thank all of our donors who contributed to this project,” Tobar said, noting one of them was Jim Branch, and others who contributed more than $10,000 worth of shelter equipment. “Mr. Branch contributed towards the UV sanitation lights that you will see in each animal room. Also, we have one in the rooftop. Those sanitation lights will keep our employees and Georgia College Shelter Buddy volunteers, adoption and rescue coordinators and the animals breathing clean air.”
PAWS for Baldwin, another local animal advocacy group, donated a new dishwasher to the animal shelter, as well as a lift table with weight scale, he added.
“Those items will make life easier for the staff as well,” Tobar said.
The county manager also thanked all of the contractors who were involved in the project.
“And last, but certainly not least, this project would not have happened without the contributions of our dedicated staff,” Tobar said. “Rebecca Lanier and Ashton Branch envisioned what this space could become. They gave those ideas to County Engineer Brian Wood, and then Brian put all of (it) on paper.”
The staff then worked hand-in-hand with each other and with many vendors to make the project a reality, he added.
“The teamwork was beautiful to watch,” Tobar said. “So, a round of applause for all of those people.”
The county manager also praised members of the county’s roads department - many of whom attended the special ceremony for their involvement with the project.
“They did all the work that you are standing on,” Tobar said, noting that Wood recently discovered a pipe that needed to be repaired and road department employees were called upon to make such repairs. “We thank you all for the work you did.”
Tobar said what everyone saw Monday and will see in the future is the equivalent of a $1.5 million shelter.
“The strength of this building and its layout made it attractive to repurpose,” Tobar said. “It only cost $220,000 to repurpose this building.”
He invited everyone there to look at the thickness of the walls of the building when they toured it.
“There’s no way we could have been able to build something like this at an affordable price in this day and age,” Tobar said.
The county manager also went on to thank previous county commissioners, such as the late Oscar Davis, and Sammy Hall.
“They were here when they authorized the building of this jail,” Tobar said. “This new animal shelter will now serve a much needed purpose; first to protect our citizens, and hopefully to find a forever home for those animals that come through this facility. If you walk through this building and you hear some of the whimpering, I don’t know about you, but my heart breaks. This is supposed to be a temporary place for these animals. We’re trying to find a forever home for them.”
Tobar also thanked the Georgia Department of Agriculture who have been so helpful to him and other county staff personnel over the last couple of years.
“Inspector (Beth) Miller has provided a lot of great input over the last two years,” Tobar said.
Miller, who has served as the inspector over Baldwin County for the last five years, said when Tobar became county manager, he really put it on fast-track.
“He’s been standing up here, thanking everybody else, but he needs to be thanked,” Miller said. “He’s the one that got this done.”
The crowd applauded Tobar for his work in making the project a reality.
“I think the county residents should be very proud of this shelter,” Miller said. “It meets our standards, and in fact, the county went above our standards.”
Baldwin County Animal Services Manager Rebecca Lanier also made some comments.
“Thank y’all for coming,” Lanier said. “It’s a big day for animal welfare in Baldwin County. We’re all super excited. “I want to say thank you to the commissioners and to Mr. Tobar for making this possible.”
Lanier said a year and a half ago that she and her husband drew the floor plans out in chalk inside the building.
“I never thought that it would come to completion as quickly as it did,” Lanier said. “The design of the new facility will be giving us some much needed separation that we do not have at the other facility. We’ll be able to keep our staff, our volunteers and the public safe from any animals that they don’t need to come in contact with.”
Just prior to the ribbon cutting ceremony, which included members of the Milledgeville-Baldwin County Chamber of Commerce participating, several of the dogs from the old shelter were moved to the new shelter.
Lanier said the new shelter would provide the adoption center coordinator an easier way to introduce the animals to the public and at the same time have a safe environment for them to interact.
Tate Pointer, president of Georgia College Shelter Buddies, also made a few comments.
“On behalf of Georgia College Shelter Buddies, we are so excited to be here for the opening of the new facility for Baldwin County,” Pointer said.
He also recognized Madeline Olliff, the group’s founder who went on to serve as the first president, as well as Jake Einig, the group’s second president.
Pointer, who currently serves as president of Georgia College Shelter Buddies, said Georgia College Shelter Buddies was founded in 2015 by Olliff because she saw a need for volunteering and fundraising.
“This club has exponentially grown since then because of the passion of our executive members and of our student volunteers,” Pointer said.
He also talked about the club’s two main priorities as they relate to the county animal shelter.
“Our two main priorities for the shelter consist of fundraising for their medical fund and promoting volunteering with training sessions,” Pointer said. “Each semester, we host a benefit concert, as well as spirit nights at local restaurants, on-campus raffles, and other fundraisers. All of our fundraising goes into the shelter’s medical fund. Two years ago, we saw a need for student volunteers to go through an informative training experience for both themselves and the animals.”
As a result, such has expanded to training anyone who would like to volunteer.
Training currently is being offered three days a week during the school year, Pointer said.
“Lastly, I’d like to thank everyone who has helped Georgia College Shelter Buddies grow since it was established in 2015,” Pointer said. “In particular, I’d like to thank Kendall Stiles, the director of Georgia College Give Center, who also has worked long hours teaching us leadership and management skills, as well as having patience with us, and helping overcome challenges that faced us, as a student organization.”
Pointer closed by saying that he along with the other members of the group look forward to their continued relationship with county officials and the staff at the animal shelter for many years to come.