Home Municipal animal shelter to move to Verona Elementary School in 2024

Municipal animal shelter to move to Verona Elementary School in 2024

Rebecca Barnabi
Photo courtesy Shenandoah Valley Animal Services Center.

Shenandoah Valley Animal Services Center’s staff, dogs and cats will pack their bags and fill out change-of-address forms next year.

The shelter has served as the municipal animal shelter for Augusta County, Staunton and Waynesboro at 1001 Mt. Torrey Road in Lyndhurst since 2011. In 2024, the shelter will move to the former Verona Elementary School at 1011 Lee Highway.

“I think all of the localities are pretty excited about the project so we want to push it as fast as we can, but we want to get it right,” said Augusta County Administrator Tim Fitzgerald.

Verona is a more centrally located site for the three municipalities to share an animal shelter, although further away for some parts of Waynesboro. The former Verona Elementary School is also closer to the Augusta County Government Center for the county to manage the animal shelter.

The former school also makes sense because the county already owns the building, which ceased to be a school in 2019, and will provide enough space for the shelter now and in the future.

In recent years, SVASC has reached capacity on several occasions, despite an expansion several years ago of the facility space.

“It didn’t take long to fill up the expansion,” Fitzgerald said.

Last year, the county took responsibility as owner of the shelter from Waynesboro, and reorganized staff, including hiring a new executive director and creating a new position for an operations manager.

According to Fitzgerald, additional stuff made the county realize the Lyndhurst facility lacked space for the staff.

“Space has been a big issue,” Fitzgerald said.

The county frequently heard from county residents that the shelter’s location in Lyndhurst was inconvenient.

“As we started thinking through that: what’s a long-term solution for the shelter?” Fitzgerald said.

A former county employee suggested Verona Elementary School, which was designed as a pod-school with 39,156 square feet. The Verona Community Association will continue to have full access and use of the gymnasium and athletic field.

“It works great for animals,” Fitzgerald said. A pod can be for dogs, a pod for cats, a pod for animals involved in court cases, and a pod for animals brought in by animal control. Staff will also have office space and space to eat lunch, as well as training rooms and rooms for community events.

Renovations costing approximately $3 million will be necessary, and the cost will be split between the three municipalities based on percentage usage. Fitzgerald said that renovations will include a new roof and HVAC system, construction of dog runs, a capture system for pet waste, fenced-in areas for the dogs, construction of a livestock area and changes to the school’s office area.

And dog cages, cat cage and other equipment can be brought from the Lyndhurst facility for use in Verona.

On January 11, the Augusta County Board of Supervisors will vote on approving a contract with Lineage Architects of Verona for drawings of the renovations. Fitzgerald said the drawings will be completed in six to eight months, a bid taken out on the project in fall 2023, and renovations and move-in completed in 2024.

The county has not yet advertised for a new executive director of the shelter. Meanwhile, Operations Manager John Hilbert is Interim Executive Director. Fitzgerald said that the executive director position will probably remain as advertised before, but the county may look at the salary again.

“We did that last time, and thought we were in the salary range,” he said.

The renovations will turn Verona Elementary School into a building that looks more like an animal facility and allows for future growth.

“We’ll go from educating children to educating dogs and cats,” Fitzgerald said of the former elementary school’s new purpose.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.