Many times, citizens ask Guilford County government for help, and now the Guilford County Board of Commissioners seems ready to ask citizens to return the favor.

The county is gearing up to start a campaign to raise private money to help fund the new Guilford County Animal Shelter, which is being designed and is expected to be built over the next two years.

As the project has developed, Guilford County officials have spoken several times about the possibility of calling on county citizens and private organizations to help with the effort – and starting a campaign to that effect is likely to be one of the matters addressed at a Thursday, July 18 afternoon work session of the County Commissioners.

This week Guilford County Commissioners Justin Conrad and Hank Henning both said that this is a funding avenue that the county certainly needs to explore.  The county is currently funding nearly $15 million for the project that’s been sought by area animal lovers for years – but many of those citizens have expressed concern over plans that call for the new shelter to have significantly less capacity than the existing shelter that was built decades ago.

County dollars for construction are tight since Guilford County hasn’t raised property taxes since 2012, construction costs are high and the county is taking on several major construction projects at one time. A new Emergency Services vehicle maintenance facility now underway and a new headquarters for the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department may be necessary, but they aren’t projects that are likely to warm the hearts of citizens and compel them to donate money (other than their already “donated” tax dollars).   The Animal Shelter project, on the other hand – which helps adorable puppies and kittens, not to mention cute bunny rabbits – is likely to garner a lot of support from the community.

Conrad said he would love to see private citizens and organizations pitch in to help.

“Do I think private donations can play a role in this?” Conrad said.  “Absolutely.”

Conrad and Henning both said the county is struggling with allotting limited funds to several costly projects now in the works.  Conrad said one speaker at a commissioners meeting even asked how the county could be building a new Animal Shelter when it wasn’t giving Guilford County Schools all the money that school officials were asking for.  He said that comment shows the financial tensions at play.

It’s still not clear what the process for raising private funds would look like though that’s likely to be a matter of discussion at the July 11 work session.

At this point, details seem to remain up in the air.  This week Guilford County Animal Services Director Jorge Ortega stated in an email, “As far as I know, there has not been any progress concerning private donations for the new shelter.”

Guilford County Manager Marty Lawing told the Rhino Times that, in his years managing counties, he couldn’t remember taking part in any project that sought public donations, though he added that topic may be part of the upcoming work session that will focus on the new Animal Shelter project.