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Malik Miller talks to "Spidey" to help him adjust to his kennel at the Humane Educational Society. The century-old facility, which was formerly an orphanage, has had a range of problems including crumbling walls, bowed ceilings and rain inside the building.

Having secured a $10 million commitment from Hamilton County for a new animal shelter, Chattanooga's Humane Educational Society will soon begin soliciting funding commitments from each of the smaller municipalities it currently serves.

With 73 percent of the animals taken in by the nonprofit shelter coming from unincorporated areas of Hamilton County, HES Executive Director Bob Citrullo said obtaining financial backing from county commissioners was a crucial first step for the capital project.

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A cat is seen in a cat room at the Humane Educational Society's current building downtown. The century-old facility, which was formerly an orphanage, has had a range of problems including crumbling walls, bowed ceilings and rain inside the building.

Now, the humane society is looking to the cities of Collegedale, Lakesite, Ridgeside, Red Bank, Soddy-Daisy, Signal Mountain and Walden for help with the final push toward its $13-million goal. Citrullo said specific dollar amounts for these requests have not yet been determined, but each will reflect how heavily that particular municipality utilizes the nonprofit's animal control services.

Accounting for 19 percent of the animals in the humane society's care, Soddy-Daisy would be expected to contribute the most after Hamilton County, followed by Red Bank, which accounts for 6 percent, he said. Supplementing with the lightest contributions will be Collegedale, Lakesite and Ridgeside, which each account for about 1 or 2 percent of the animal intake.

"The idea is to make it affordable for everybody," said Citrullo, adding, "Even though $10 million for the county seems like a lot of money you have to build a facility big enough to handle all those animals [the unincorporated areas] bring in."

The cities' funding commitments will ultimately determine the size of the new shelter, which will be built on 6.8 acres in the area of Bonny Oaks Drive and Highway 153, he said.

Should all of the municipalities choose not to contribute, the total size of the planned 36,000-square-foot facility would likely be reduced by 25 percent, Citrullo estimated, though he added that the theoretical outcome isn't one that he foresees.

During recent planning meetings, Collegedale city officials already indicated their commitment to contributing funds toward the new facility. While Citrullo noted that Collegedale only accounts for about 2 percent of the animals the shelter takes in, Mayor Katie Lamb said that does not make the animal control services any less essential.

"It's an important service for our community, so we want to assist them as they move forward with this project," said Lamb.

She said the monetary contribution would be included in the city's fiscal year 2019-2020 budget, which will take effect July 1.

Citrullo said the cities he's most concerned about opting out of the shelter's services are Soddy-Daisy and Red Bank because of their higher associated costs, though he also added that HES is cost-effective, citing a $6 per capita cost for the county versus $11.60 for East Ridge and $9.29 for Chattanooga, which have their own animal control services.

"I would be more concerned, if they do pull out, about who's going to take care of the animals that need care in the community," Citrullo added.

HES will begin meeting with each municipality starting at the beginning of January. The goal is to break ground by June 2019 and open by summer 2020, said Citrullo.

Email Myron Madden at mmadden@timesfreepress.com.

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