West Richland to pick animal shelter location

A new animal shelter could be a step closer to reality after Tuesday’s West Richland City Council meeting.

Choosing a location -- whether at the city maintenance facility, city land near Flat Top Park or at Belmont Boulevard and Keene Road -- is on the council’s agenda.

The three sites are on the council’s short list after a town hall meeting March 25.

The public also helped generate a list of what should be available at a new shelter, including better public access.

The current shelter is inaccessible to the public because it is not staffed and does not have heat or air conditioning.

The West Richland Park Board has said Flat Top Park is not a viable location for the animal shelter.

Police Chief Brian McElroy and other city staff are recommending putting the new shelter on one acre near where the city plans to build a new maintenance facility at Belmont and Keene.

“I can’t say what it will look like or the cost, but designating a location is the first hurdle. Then we can look at design and how to fund it. It starts to become a reality when we have a location,” McElroy said. “Our next step will be to develop a plan to make it happen.”

Each of the three options would be accessible to the public.

“The use of volunteers requires that and we’ll need a reasonable number of volunteers to help us out. It’s important to make that part of the planning process,” McElroy said.

West Richland hired an animal control officer earlier this spring who works five days a week from noon to 6:30 p.m.

In addition to investigating any animal complaints, the officer works with the Benton Franklin Humane Society, Adopt Shelter Animal Pets, Tri-City Animal Control and other organizations to get animals back to owners or adopted to new homes. She also coordinates foster care for the animals.

Also Tuesday, the council plans to vote on buying 47,475 square feet of land along the Yakima River north of Van Giesen Street to Butte Court.

The land is owned by David and Raquel Volmer, who have agreed to sell it to the city for $25,000.

“Buying the land will allow the city to develop a trail system and river access for nonmotorized water craft like innertubes, canoes and kayaks,” said Russ Connole, director of community development for West Richland.

“I hope West Richland is able to go ahead and buy the property. It would be another asset for the city and a good place for people using the

Tapteal Water Trail to stop to get something to eat and drink,” said Scott Woodward, president of the Tapteal Greenway Association.

Woodward worked with the city three years ago to help plan river access in that area. In anticipation of the purchase the association added stop No. 9 to its water trail map.

“We’ve been putting stickers on our brochures saying that No. 9 is closed. It’ll be nice to be able to take them off,” Woodward said.

Purchasing the land will allow the city to move forward with the Yakima River Gateway Project to enhance the entrance to the city and gain public access to the river.

The plan is to build restrooms and educational kiosks, as well as a trail to link with a current trail around the West Richland Golf Course.

“It been only marginally maintained and isn’t really well marked. We’ll cut back the vegetation and perhaps add more signs to make people more aware of it,” Connole said.

Money for the purchase and development will come from grants and the city’s capital project fund.

Connole said the price is more than the city wanted to pay, but he believes the benefits to the community will offset the cost.

The meeting starts at 7 p.m.

-- Loretto J. Hulse: 509-582-1513; lhulse@tricityherald.com