Animal shelter scores $600,000 | AspenTimes.com

Animal shelter scores $600,000

John Colson

The new Aspen/Pitkin County Animal Shelter, now under construction, received a boost in funding with a $600,000 donation from Sam and Cheryl Wyly. Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

The new Aspen/Pitkin County Animal Shelter’s financial picture is “all good,” thanks to a $600,000 contribution by a local couple.The donation from multimillionaire entrepreneur Sam Wyly and his wife, Cheryl, was announced at Saturday’s Bow-Wow Meow Ball, a fund-raiser for the shelter project.The pledge comes as the shelter deals with an estimated $600,000 in cost overruns, due to changes in the project’s design and unforeseen expenses at the site, which is across Highway 82 from the Pitkin County Airport.

“Now we’re good. We’re all good,” said longtime shelter director Seth Sachson with regard to the Wylys pledge. “This is sort of the icing on the cake.”But Gesine Crandall, treasurer of the group backing the shelter, said there are still decisions to be made about exactly how the money should be used. She said the shelter’s board must discuss how much of the money to turn over to the construction budget, and how much should be reserved for a permanent endowment or for future projects, such as the creation of a small-animal clinic on the grounds of the new shelter.Cheryl Wyly, reached at her home Monday, said she has no preference as to how the money is spent.”I pledged it to an organization I believe in, and I trust them to make the right decisions” about its use, she said simply.

The shelter is due to be complete in October 2005. Assistant City Manager Ed Sadler revealed in March that construction of the shelter, which was supposed to be a $3.1 million project, was as much as $600,000 over budget.The city and the county each agreed to kick in $200,000 to help cover the shortfall; the group that has been backing the shelter agreed to raise the remaining $200,000. The group already had raised approximately $2.35 million toward fulfilling its promise of raising $2.6 million for the project, according to Crandall. The $2.35 million does not including the Wylys’ pledge.Asked whether the pledge might mean the city and county can expect to not have to kick in their $200,000, Crandall reacted with concern and said such matters have yet to be decided.She noted with pride that the Wylys’ pledge is only one of “thousands” of donations that have been received. The smallest have been “pennies, from little children,” some of whom conducted fund-raising drives of their own, she said. The Wylys’ pledge is the largest to date.

Work on the shelter began late last summer. The 9,261-square-foot facility is to replace the inadequate, 33-year-old shelter currently operating at the Aspen Business Center.John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com

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