Spotsylvania officials are moving forward on a $5.9 million upgrade of the county’s animal shelter, a nearly $2 million increase over the estimated price tag when planning began on the project three years ago.

While supervisors have agreed the shelter needs work, some of which is required to meet state code, the cost has drawn criticism from some on the board.

Supervisors approved the project without discussion last week.

County spokeswoman Michelle McGinnis said in an email that the price tag—Stafford County opened a new 17,400 square foot shelter this year, for $5.7 million—is partly a result of construction costs that have spiked in recent years, along with other aspects of the project.

“The need for a new Spotsylvania County Animal Shelter was identified in 2013-14 as the county moved to support its ‘no kill’ shelter initiative,” McGinnis said. “As the project developed, the need to perform heavy renovations on the existing facility and maximize the expansion size to meet long-term facility demand became apparent.”

The initial $3.7 million plan called for a smaller expansion and only minor renovations. That figure changed dramatically after the discovery that more renovation work was needed.

The estimated cost of the project eventually grew to $7 million. The high bid on the project came in at $6.8 million.

The result of the project will be a renovated shelter that will more than double in size to 19,200 square feet. The structure will have larger kennels, visitation rooms and “real-life rooms,” which have a home-like setting.

The renovations include improvements to the animal intake and holding areas as well as an expanded spay and neuter clinic.

Some of the work on the shelter, built in 2000, is required by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in order to get the facility up to code. If the county fails to fix the code violations, related to the sally port and intake areas, it could be fined up to $1,000 a day, according to county staff.

Culpeper County-based Taft Construction was chosen to do the work. The county hopes to break ground on the project early next year.

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Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436 sshenk@freelancestar.com