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Ogden mayor grants 1-month extension on cusp of wildlife rehab center eviction

By Cathy McKitrick - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Feb 19, 2024

Tim Vandenack, Standard-Examiner file photo

The outside of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah in Ogden, photographed Thursday, June 15, 2023.

OGDEN — Until late Friday, Buz and DaLyn Marthaler faced a March 7 deadline to relocate the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah to a century-old structure at 332 Washington Blvd.

That effort included significant renovation to the new site and moving everything out of the city-owned animal shelter they’d occupied since 2010. They also needed to rehome about two dozen birds and animals, plus a beaver that will have to be transported out of state.

But DaLyn Marthaler, executive director for the nonprofit, learned Friday night that Ogden Mayor Ben Nadolski had given them another month to vacate their building next to the George S. Eccles Dinosaur Park.

Reached Saturday morning by phone, Nadolski said his goal has always been to “help the Dinosaur Park and wildlife group succeed.” “I didn’t want one to succeed at the cost of the other,” Nadolski said.

Nadolski took the reins of the city in early January after surviving a fierce 2023 campaign season.

Image supplied

This image, provided through an open-records request, shows a site plan for the George S. Eccles Dinosaur Park in Ogden, including the location of a planned Hatchery building and notes about the demolition of a building long occupied by the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah.

“In my view, a little bit of extra time was needed to ensure success and the Dinosaur Park was in support of it as well,” Nadolski said, praising park officials for being collaborative even though delays will cause them extra expense.

Last March, the wildlife center received notice from Ogden City that it would have to vacate the former animal shelter so the building could be torn down for expansion of the neighboring Dinosaur Park.

As wildlife specialist for the lone resource of its kind in Northern Utah, Dalyn Marthaler has nursed thousands of birds and small mammals back to health for more than two decades.

Email trail

A string of recent emails — obtained by a concerned resident through a government records request — showed Mark Wayment’s determination to demolish the Wildlife Rehab Center on March 7. Wayment formerly chaired the Dinosaur Park’s board of directors but was released from that position Jan. 1. Since then, Shane Lyon stepped in to oversee the board.

Wayment, who owns Excel Construction, emailed Ogden City Public Works Director Justin Anderson and Building Services Manager Chris Tremea on Jan. 23 about DaLyn Marthaler asking Lyon for more time to relocate her nonprofit and its remaining wildlife.

“He assured them that things were in place to start work on the 7th date and she said she had been in contact with Ben (Nadolski) begging for more time ? she also asked if she could remove sinks and cabinets for possible reuse at the new location ?” Wayment wrote Anderson, adding that “I think this is so bold after all they did to both the city and the park for such a long time but it is what it is.”

A Jan. 24 email Wayment sent to Ogden City Chief Administrative Officer Mara Brown sketched out the Dinosaur Park’s plan to build a small structure called the Hatchery on a portion of the land that would soon be cleared by demolishing the old animal shelter.

“Contracts have been signed for demolition of the dog pound and all inspections required for that work will be completed by mid-February. Utility companies have been contacted to terminate on March 7 and demolition equipment will be delivered March 7,” Wayment told Brown by email.

He estimated that site preparation would take about six weeks, and “by then we should have everything in place and permitted to start construction of the Hatchery building after all these years.”

Reached by phone Saturday, Wayment said that Excel Construction had nothing to do with constructing the Hatchery. He said he expects a contractor to be chosen for that project soon.

Lyon shared Hatchery details and other Dinosaur Park expansion plans earlier this month.

A Jan. 26 email from Sage Demolition informed Tremea and Wayment that it had received the signed contract and asked that the building’s owner request that power, gas and water get shut off on March 7.

“We will cap the sewer on property during demo,” the email added. Wayment also told Brown that the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center had far exceeded its “temporary” use of the city-owned structure, noting that negotiations with the former mayor and CAO in 2009 had included a five-year cap on its use of the building that expired in 2014.

After seeing these emails, Buz Marthaler — co-founder of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center — took issue with what he called Wayment’s false interpretation of certain “facts” and sent his own message to Ogden’s CAO.

“There is no stipulation the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center was ‘not to exceed five years,'” Buz Marthaler wrote in his message to Brown..

How they got here

The Wildlife center’s “temporary” agreement with the city actually dates back to November 2010 and contains no five-year term limit. But it did contain a provision that the city could give them 180 days to vacate if it wanted to use the property in a different way.

That agreement also required the center to provide public education as well as wildlife rehabilitation, a component that had been fundamental to the building’s former use as an animal shelter.

Last March, the Marthalers received notification that “the time has come for the city to redevelop the premises for other important public purposes, as planned.”

When that 180 days expired, the wildlife center received a six-month extension and the Marthalers scrambled to renovate another location. While not meeting all their needs, the century-old Osmond home at 332 Washington Blvd. became that spot until fundraising allows construction of something more suitable.

Last June, former Ogden City CAO John Patterson emailed DaLyn Marthaler that he was “shocked and saddened” by televised news reports that the center had to move out. “The work you do is important. I know you have saved thousands of animals,” Patterson wrote.

He described the old animal shelter as being “in bad shape” and requiring significant upgrades.

“So from a city perspective, you were putting to beneficial use an old building that would have cost us money. I thought this was a win-win,” Patterson wrote.

He also explained the reason for their “temporary” status: “I recall (and it could be faulty) the only reason for it being titled ‘temporary’ was because a city can’t give public property away without a formal, open process.”

Animals at risk

Among the wildlife still housed at the old animal shelter are eight education birds. That roster includes two hawks, a great-horned owl, a barn owl, a turkey vulture, a golden eagle and a kestrel falcon.

DaLyn Marthaler described what it will take to move the mews or enclosures that house these particular birds: “They have to be predator proof.”

That involves installing a barrier below the mew to keep raccoons and other predators out, she added.

“That base has to be laid down first before you can move. So our education animals can’t go anywhere until that happens.”

Current plans involve moving the birds and mews to the Burch Creek Animal Hospital, she said.

In addition to these education animals, Dalyn Marthaler said they have about 16 others that need to be rehomed, including a beaver that has to be transported to an out-of-state facility.

Counting the cost

In his Jan. 24 email to Brown, Wayment projected up to 300% cost increases on expansion projects that had been in the works for years, some for which they’d already secured funding.

Speaking for the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, Buz Marthaler said they had “obligated or spent over a half a million dollars to make this work for us, even though we spent it on property we don’t really want and all the upgrades we had to put in. And that’s not counting what we put into the building that’s going to be torn down.”

Marthaler noted that their nonprofit “just started taking a half million-plus in straight revenue in the last two years.”

“That’s a lot of money for us,” he said.

Demolition plans discussed

Emails obtained through a public records request detail a push to tear down the former Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah facility


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