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The Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin hopes to begin construction of a 16,500-square-foot shelter between Janesville and Beloit. The building and parking lot would fit in the northeast corner of a larger property, leaving the rest for walking trails on the campus.

JANESVILLE

After delays, changes in leadership, the pandemic and a complete redesign, the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin was ready to break ground on its long-awaited new building this month.

Then a new problem slammed the brakes on the project: a national steel shortage.

Jim McMullen, the humane society’s executive director, said the kind of steel roof trusses needed for the building normally would have been delivered in three to four weeks, but when Corporate Contractors Inc. ordered the steel, they were told the delivery wouldn’t come until January.

The problem was a major U.S. business had preordered massive amounts of the trusses this year, McMullen said.

Project architects Angus-Young of Janesville found a solution: trusses that could be installed in a more labor-intensive way instead of being lowered by a crane, McMullen said. The different style could be delivered in October.

But there is a threat of a further problem: Everyone who is looking to build might be shifting their designs to this alternative style of building material, so Angus-Young is in a race to redesign the building so it can place its order, McMullen said.

If all works out, groundbreaking will be in late June or early July.

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Brush has been cleared and survey stakes are in the ground at the site of the new Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin on County G/Prairie Street south of Janesville. Groundbreaking is expected in June.

McMullen was hired in September to replace Mike McManus, who left the previous July with no explanation offered after less than two years on the job. The society’s board also experienced turnover, McMullen said, all in the middle of a fundraising campaign for the new building.

All the turnover didn’t help the project, McMullen said, but the need remained. Also unhelpful is the rising cost of construction materials this year.

The humane society’s longtime building at 222 S. Arch St. in Janesville is 45 years old. The original plan was to move into the new building in 2020.

“It’s a need. We need to move. Our building is crumbling, so we’re hoping if some costs get a little bit out of hand that we will just be able to hopefully make up that difference in some additional capital campaign proceeds,” McMullen said.

The current building comprises 9,500 square feet. Plans had called for a 26,000-square-foot building, but McMullen said as he examined the plans, he was struck by the size. The words “Taj Mahal” came to mind. He brought in staff members who helped with a redesign for a 16,500-square-foot building.

“I call it a right-sized building that will take us into the future,” McMullen said. “I’m so proud of working with our staff. They know the shelter business. We took everything into account: workflow, efficiency and separation needs if you need animals isolated due to illness.”

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Brush has been cleared and survey stakes are in the ground at the site of the new Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin on County G/Prairie Street south of Janesville. Groundbreaking is expected in June.

The projected cost also was downsized, from $4.8 million to $4.32 million. About half of that amount has been raised. The board is ready to borrow the rest, though the organization is still wooing potential donors. Naming rights for parts of the building are being offered, too.

The new building will be able to handle expected growth, and if growth is greater than expected, and expansion plan is built into the design, McMullen said.

The building will be on 44 acres on County G south of Janesville, providing easier access to Beloit and the 22 other Rock County municipalities the humane society serves, McMullen said.

The building and parking lot will be postage-stamped on the northeast corner of the property, leaving the rest for walking trails through hilly terrain believed to contain remnants of original prairie.

McMullen envisions programs and facilities that will bring the public to the humane society for much more than adopting an animal or getting a pet vaccinated, including school trips and educational programs. A community room will be available for meetings and parties.

If the steel comes in as hoped, McMullen plans a move-in date in March or April next year.

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