Anoka leaders split on plan to build new animal impound

The Anoka City Council on Monday is expected to authorize plans for a new building to house a police training space and an animal containment facility.

Although residents and the five-member council appear to support the law enforcement training center that would include a six-lane, 50-yard shooting range, not everyone sees the need for a new kennel to house stray animals picked up off the streets.

The council narrowly approved the $3.5 million project in a 3-2 vote at its March 15 meeting. Those who cast the no votes objected to the cost, pointing out the city already has a pound in a new maintenance building. A measure to build only the law enforcement portion of the project failed 3-2.

“We all wish we had bigger garages and more barn space and bigger rooms, but we have to live within our means,” said Council Member Jeff Weaver, who voted against the project. “We have to live with what is fiscally responsible for the taxpayers of Anoka.”

An owner of a median-value home — which in Anoka is $250,000 — would pay an additional $31 in property taxes a year for 20 years to cover the cost of the facility.

Council Member Brian Wesp also voted no, saying the community would be better served by using the $800,000 allocated for the kennel to repair city streets.

Anoka previously had an animal holding facility in a maintenance building near Green Haven Golf Course. The city is selling that property to a developer who plans to build senior cooperative housing.

Last year, the city built a new maintenance building, which included 2,400 square feet for a temporary animal containment facility. Council Member Elizabeth Barnett said leaving it there permanently would rob park staff of needed space. She voted for the facility.

In voting yes, Mayor Phil Rice said park maintenance space needs to be replaced and now is the time to build because interest rates are low and construction costs will only rise.

He also said having a kennel in the city is a “nice service” for the citizens of Anoka. A site at the police station also would make it easier for officers dealing with lost pets.

Resident Cheri Riemer, whose front door at 275 Harrison St. would face the new facility, questioned that logic. A city memo shows the city picked up 34 dogs and 17 cats last year and just five pets during January and February this year. The city collected $624 in impound fees in 2020.

Riemer said that several north metro communities share a site 6 miles away in Andover, adding that Anoka could send its animals there.

“Why are we building a building that is not used that much?” asked Riemer, who admits she does not want the animal facility 130 feet from her house. “It does not make financial sense. We’ve had a dogcatcher since the 1960s. But just because we have always done it is not a good reason to keep doing it.”

Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768

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