South Suburban Humane Society making progress on new facility in Matteson

The South Suburban Humane Society is closer to getting a new lease on life as construction began this spring on a new facility in Matteson.

“This is my dream come true, so I’ve been there more than I need to, I’m sure. I just want to see every new thing as it happened. Pouring the foundation walls was so exciting because it’s a real building,” said Emily Klehm, CEO of SSHS. “It suddenly feels very real. It is no longer just dirt.”

The foundation and rebar have been installed and the foundation will soon be poured at the new South Suburban Humane Society facility in Matteson.  (included photo)

The foundation and rebar have been installed and the foundation will soon be poured at the new South Suburban Humane Society facility in Matteson. (included photo)

Klehm said she hunts down the contractors at the site at the intersection of Central Avenue and Lincoln Highway, dropping by a few times a week. SSHS also has weekly meetings and Klehm is also happy to be around for inspections.

Construction was originally scheduled to begin in April but was delayed for about a month due to permit issues likely related to the pandemic. It rained cats and dogs last month, delaying work for nine days, Klehm said.

The plan was to open in January. Instead, construction should be completed in February, with the goal of opening in March.

“We are roughly back on schedule, so we definitely need to have our roof in October. That’s the big boost so we can work all winter long,” she said.

So far, digging is underway. The foundations have been poured. Underground plumbing is in process and should be done next week. The reinforcement is in place and soon the concrete floors will be poured.

“There is a lot of plumbing because it is an animal shelter, so many drains and taps. That takes quite a bit of time’, says Klehm.

The plan hasn’t changed yet due to increased material costs, but SSHS is still looking for a $600,000 to $700,000 funding gap with donations. Ideally, the organization would not need to take out a mortgage on the property.

An Amazon Wishlist will also be created for supplies when the new building opens. Klehm said a wish list created when the Homewood Adoption Center opened was an effective resource for SSHS.

Only a few new staff positions are needed: a maintenance engineer and a front office worker. The current Chicago Heights facility is so inefficient that it requires more staff than usual for a similarly sized operation, Klehm said.

When the new branch opens, the current one closes. That could be a gradual process, and SSHS doesn’t want to leave a vacant property nearby, Klehm said. The building can be used for storage if it is difficult to sell.

“We will probably move the animals one day and to the new building the same day,” Klehm said. “(The Chicago Heights property) will not have a high resale value. We know that. It’s hardly functional as an animal shelter, let alone something a developer might be interested in. However, we are not going to just leave this building. We will maintain the building as long as it is ours.”

To donate to the new South Suburban Humane Society facility, visit the website new facility.

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