Tails wag for improved pet shelter

‘Ground heave’ likely culprit in building’s instability; center to reopen in November

In the end, the shifting earth that endangered animal control officers trying to constrain vicious dogs and which took a significant chunk out of the Mesa County budget had nothing to do with saturated soils, it now seems.

The culprit that forced the county to rebuild its Animal Services center from the inside out was less obvious, but just as destructive.

“In my opinion, it was what we call ground heave,” said Greg Linza, facilities director for the county, during a tour of the building in Whitewater.

Work to shore up the floor of the building is complete, and construction workers with Asset Engineering are rebuilding the interior just as it was originally designed, from the kennels to the front office.

When the $3 million building was first constructed in 2010, the top of a hill was sheared off to make room for the foundation.

That released pressure on the earth below and it immediately expanded, causing the newbuilt floors to heave and buckle, Linza said.

“The day it opened, the floor was already cracking,” Linza said.

Officials expected to find damp, expansive soils underneath when they pulled out the floor, he said.

Instead, the ground below was as dry as the desert surrounding the building.

“There was no moisture,” Linza said.

The new floor of the 8,765-square-foot building is shored up by 61 pylons, or caissons, each punched 31 feet into the ground down to the Dakota sandstone. Several layers of steel, concrete and moisture barriers are aimed at keeping the building watertight, a necessity for a building that’s hosed out daily.

The rebuilt floor was covered with 3 inches of water and left to sit. Officials found no leaks after 48 hours.

Kennels have now been rebuilt and drywall and electricity are being reinstalled as Asset Engineering readies the inside for a November reopening.

Animals are being kept under an air-conditioned tent just north of the building.

Work began at the building in April and by May, the Mesa County Commission accepted a change reflecting an $86,000 reduction in the $2.4 million job.

The county is using $1.2 million it obtained in a settlement of a lawsuit against the contractors in the original job.

Ultimately, Linza said, the county is getting a remarkably stable building.

“It’s a state-of-the-art facility,” Linza said. “If the apocalypse ever comes, make for this building.”


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