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Shelter animals are almost home

ERIC J. SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Hughie Sweazy mops the floor of the Natchez-Adams Humane Society Wednesday afternoon on Liberty Road in Natchez.

NATCHEZ — Fundraising efforts for the Natchez-Adams Humane Society’s new shelter have largely focused on a donated piece of property on Col. John Pitchford Parkway.

However, the society’s board of directors recently decided to take the plans for a new shelter in a different direction.

The exact location of the new shelter is not set in stone, society president and board member Barbara Platte said, but the new location will be near the current Liberty Road location.

“Everybody knows where we are, and (the current location) is close to the vet clinic,” Shelter Manager Pat Cox said.

The board also decided against using the plans for the shelter provided by fundraiser and Good Hope Construction owner Vidal Davis.

Davis, who donated the Col. John Pitchford Parkway property along with Connor House and Dan Bland, devised the conceptual plan to support his fundraising efforts.

Davis said he visited new shelter facilities in eight cities in Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, Texas and Alabama to research for his shelter design.

Davis said when he presented his design and the approximately $550,000 he raised all over the South, the board did not share his vision for the design and location of the new shelter.

“I spent three years of time, effort and expense going to places to incorporate as many (elements) as I could, but perhaps my vision isn’t the right one,” Davis said.

Davis said he is not experienced designing shelters, but he did his best to incorporate the desires of all donors.

“Along the way, perhaps I didn’t share my ideas with the board,” Davis said.

Platte said Davis’ plan was conceptual, but that the board went a different route.

“(Davis) did a wonderful job on raising the funds,” Platte said.

Society President Barbara Platte said the board weighed the pros and cons of both locations and decided to go with Liberty Road and a new set of plans for a few reasons.

The Liberty Road location, in addition to being familiar to the public, has access to city sewage, unlike the Col John Pitchford Parkway location, Platte said.

Platte said the neighbors at the other location also did not want the shelter built there.

Platte said the board is working on a floor plan, which will be smaller, more affordable and easier to maintain than Davis’ plans.

The new plans include features such as a fresh-air ventilation system, which will exchange 11 times with outside air in an hour.

“For an animal shelter, ventilation is a big important thing,” Platte said.

The Liberty Road location is also close to the veterinarian’s office, where volunteers must make numerous daily trips.

Davis said since he was a volunteer, and not serving the society in an official capacity, he did not push his idea when the board did not see eye to eye with his vision.

“(The board) is very qualified to carry (the plans) forward,” Davis said.

“I have no hard feelings at all about it. (The board) has the fiscal capacity to make the final decision.”

Davis said additional funds were also committed to be donated as soon as the project breaks ground.

“My biggest concern was that they not spend any more of the money that was raised on (buying) another location,” Davis said.

Platte said the board is currently working on legal matters to acquire the new property near its current facility where the future shelter will be.

“We’re looking into more or less swapping (properties),” Platte said.

Platte said the board is unsure how the society will use the donated property on Col. John Pitchford Parkway.

All parties agree any new shelter will be a big improvement from the current situation.

The biggest challenge of the current shelter, according to volunteer Patty Polk, is obvious.

“It’s about to fall in,” Polk said.

“This building has been here for so long, and no matter how long we try — and we do try — we can’t get rid of this odor,” Polk said.

The shelter is also overcrowded and receiving approximately 30 dogs a week, Polk said.

Platte said the current facility, which has been used as shelter for more than 30 years, was never intended to be used a shelter, but as a storage area.

Davis said a new facility, regardless of where and of its design, will be 1,000 times better than the current situation.

“It’s basically of a shell of a wreck,” Davis said of the current shelter.

Davis said a new facility will improve the quality of life for animals and volunteers as well as the people interested in adopting.

“(The shelter) should be an uplifting experience rather than just a sad experience,” Davis said.

Davis said he hopes whatever plans are used, that they will be built the right way to last for at least the next 50 years.

“In a town this size with everybody (fundraising), the public is not going to accept anything less than top notch,” Davis said.

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