Groundbreaking held for new animal shelter

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THE Office of the Mayor of Saipan held a groundbreaking ceremony on Friday for the new multifunctional animal shelter building that is to be constructed on the As Perdido agriculture station property.

Saipan Mayor David Apatang gave his opening remarks, thanking Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios, Speaker Blas Jonathan Attao, the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation chairman, House Floor Leader John Paul Sablan, House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Ivan Blanco, Office of Insular Affairs CNMI Field Representative Harry Blanco, governor’s authorized representative Vicky Villagomez,  veterinarian Dr. Ignacio Dela Cruz, Fr. Harold Funa, and everyone present at the ceremony for their time and support.

He also thanked those who were unable to be present at the ceremony, but played key roles in the fruition of the project: Regional Administrator for Federal Emergency and Emergency Management Region IX Robert Fenton Jr., and members of his team, including Bill Roache, Sheryl Cochran, Teri Toye, and Todd Hoose.

The mayor also thanked Department of Public Works Secretary James Ada, DPW-Technical Services Director Tony Camacho, architect Crystal Cabrera, and many others for their collective efforts in making the project a reality.

He noted that Typhoon Soudelor in 2015 damaged the animal shelter in Lower Base, adding that the administration and FEMA were quick to respond to calls for post-typhoon assistance.

“While we were receiving assistance with our application for disaster assistance, the shelter was condemned because it was structurally unsound,” he said.

He said repairing the animal shelter in Lower Base would have cost more, given that it was in a flood zone that required a new floor for the shelter to be elevated at least six feet above the existing floor grade.


Saipan Mayor David Apatang, second right, recognizes the employees of the Saipan Dog Control Program at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new animal shelter building in As Perdido on Friday. Photo by K-Andrea  Evarose  S. Limol

With the support of the late former Department of Lands and Natural Resources Secretary Richard Seman and current Secretary Anthony Benavente, it was agreed in 2016 that the animal shelter would be moved to the DLNR agricultural station in As Perdido.

At the time, with the help of GAR Villagomez, FEMA approved the request for an improved project for the animal shelter.

“The process to get here today has been a long one. In fact, it took four years of hard work,” Apatang said.

He said the architectural and engineering design, finding and getting additional funding sources, local federal historic preservation, and environmental compliance reviews and permitting were all part of the long and difficult process.

“We expended a lot of energy to bring this project to our residents who care for the best animal healthcare for their pets… We are here at last,” he said.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us and this new shelter, when completed, will give us the facility to care for animals that we are tasked by statute and regulations to remove from the streets, neighborhoods, parks, and school grounds.”

He added, “[We] have our work cut out for us,” referring to the additional statutory responsibilities mandated by Public Law 21-31, a law against cruelty to and theft of animals.

The operation of the new shelter, he said, will help them catch up with their work of controlling the population of dogs and cats since the Lower Base animal shelter was shut down in late 2015.

Apatang added, “The shelter will also offer residents with pets a place to bring their pets for veterinary care.”

He said the shelter will have a clinic where state and visiting veterinarians will offer animal healthcare.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new animal shelter is projected for April 2021, giving a 180-day timeline for the project.

R3A General Services LLC is the contractor of this project, represented by Ariel Villanueva.

Villanueva, for his part, thanked the administration, the mayor, and the community for their confidence in R3A in completing this project within the 180-day timeline.

He said he and his team of 10 to 14 people, along with several other subcontractors, will work hard to get the project done as early as they can.

“No project in the CNMI will be successful without the right leadership... It’s the consistency of leadership that is very critical to see projects like this,” Gov. Torres emphasized.

The governor thanked Mayor Apatang and his staff as well as the rest of the CNMI leadership for their hard work and dedication.

“It’s a good day for the CNMI,” he said.

Lt. Gov. Palacios, for his part, recognized the resiliency and continued efforts of the mayor and his staff, congratulating them on the project.

The 5,000-square-meter multifunctional animal shelter will have two separate sections on one large floor area, with one section for the kennel and the other section for offices, animal examination rooms, clinics, restrooms, two-vehicle indoor garage, 18-vehicle parking stalls, and a laundry room.

The semi-concrete kennel will have 40 animal holding stalls.

The shelter will have its own wastewater and sewer system, as the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. wastewater production system is not available in the area.

The total project cost is over $500,000, partially funded by disaster assistance awards, capital improvement funds, and local delegation appropriation.

“We will exert every effort to complete this project in 180 days or maybe even sooner,” Apatang said.

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