City Council approves contract to rebuild Evanston Animal Shelter


Daily file photo by Mika Ellison

Ald. Krissie Harris (2nd). Harris said she received 70 emails regarding the animal shelter — the vast majority of which supported rebuilding the Evanston Animal Shelter.

Casey He, Assistant City Editor

City Council voted 8-1 Monday to approve a $6.85 million contract with CCC Holdings, Inc. to construct a new facility for the Evanston Animal Shelter.

The Oakton Street shelter processes an average of over 480 animals each year, according to a city memo. The shelter also provides pet food and other resources to residents housing their own animals and takes care of animals for residents who are temporarily displaced.

However, the existing building that houses the animal shelter, constructed in 1973, is neither adequate in size nor designed with modern shelter standards. 

“The existing animal shelter is at the end of its useful life,” Shane Cary, city architect and project manager, said. “It presents a number of health, safety and welfare issues that need to be addressed.”

The new facility will expand from 2,800 to more than 8,000 square feet. It will include an updated HVAC system and an isolated area for keeping sick animals, among other upgrades, according to the city’s proposal.

Cary said funding from the project will come from three sources: a Cook County grant, the city’s fund and donations to the Evanston Animal Shelter. The project is estimated to cost $8 million total.

In 2020, Cook County awarded Evanston a $2 million grant as part of a program for improving local animal shelters. The shelter will contribute $1.2 million through fundraising. The city is also in communication with Cook County for additional grant money, the memo said.  

More than 10 Evanston Animal Shelter staff members and residents spoke during public comment in support of rebuilding the shelter. 

Vicky Pasenko, the shelter’s executive director, said she wants the city to move forward with the contract.

“I have stood at this podium in front of this legislative body 10 times,” Pasenko said. “So when people say that it has been rushed, it hasn’t. And when they say that there’s been a lack of transparency, that’s just not true either.”

However, several residents raised concerns about the project’s high cost.

Evanston resident Brian Becharas said he is in favor of rebuilding the shelter but wants the city to be fiscally responsible with the project.

He said the city’s proposal, which puts the construction costs at more than $800 per square foot, is much more expensive than similar-sized projects. 

Cary said the high cost of construction is partly due to the inflation within the construction industry. The cost of the animal shelter project has risen 27% from when the project was drafted in 2021. 

The price also includes soft costs associated with relocating the shelter animals during the construction and complying with the city’s environmental initiatives, he added. 

During council discussion, Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) said she is also concerned about the financial aspect of the construction. 

“I think I’m with everybody about supporting the animal shelter,” Kelly said. “I just don’t think that financial accountability, responsibility and a new animal shelter — these are not mutually exclusive.”

She said she wanted the proposal to go through the Administration & Public Works Committee instead of coming to the council as a special order of business that cannot be held for further consideration. 

Kelly was the only councilmember to vote against approving the contract.

Ald. Krissie Harris (2nd) said she has received 70 emails concerning the animal shelter from residents — the vast majority of whom support the effort. 

“One of the things that we hear residents say is that we need to listen to the voices of the residents,” Harris said. “So when I vote yes, I want everybody to be clear that I’ve listened to everyone who reached out to me.”

Ald. Devon Reid (8th) said he personally sees no reason to delay the animal shelter project further.

He said the city’s environmental commitments do raise the project’s cost, but he thinks those are important goals that the residents would support.

“It’s very clear that the sentiment in our community is that we need to make this investment,” Reid said. “It’s a value statement.”

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Twitter: @caseeey_he

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