Sarah Bunker Kern, education and outreach coordinator for the Center for Wildlife, holds Ruby, a non-releasable red-tailed hawk who has been with the center since being hit by a car in 2006. Credit: Ioanna Raptis | The York Weekly

YORK, Maine — The Center for Wildlife capital campaign last month edged over the $1 million mark, well on the way toward reaching the center’s goal of breaking ground on a new state-of-the-art medical facility and education center next spring. And the staff is hoping a few community-minded contractors and suppliers might be interested in joining the construction team.

Construction can come none too soon for a center that Director Kristen Lamb said is truly bursting at the seams. So far this year, 1,700 mammals and birds have thus far come through the doors of the wildlife rehabilitation center, compared with 1,800 for all of 2016. With three months to go, staff anticipates at least 200 to 300 more before year’s end.

“We actually had to close our doors for a week in August because we were at capacity,” Lamb said.

The reasons for the increase are several. Due to changing climate conditions, instead of two distinct nesting seasons in spring and fall, the center sees orphans from February to October “nonstop.” In fact, the center once took in 500-600 orphans a year, but this year, admissions are already at 800. The types of species are expanding, too, due to changing climate, to include snowshoe hares, cottontails and ermine.

So many baby bats were brought to the center that they had to build a special flight conditioning tent to prepare them for the wild. And an Auburn bat rehabilitation center closed this year, as did a center for turtles in Epping, New Hampshire. Those closures have contributed to the increase, as well.

“This is all validating why this project is critical,” said Lamb.

The center has contracted with Jewett Construction of Raymond, New Hampshire, as general contractor for the 10,000-square-foot building that will be built on 14 acres of land the center purchased from the York Water District last year. The total amount to be raised is $3.4 million, for construction, equipment, an endowment and contingency.

The plan is to complete construction in two phases — first, to build the structure and fit out the first floor, which will contain the medical center, education center and staff offices. The second floor, to include classroom space and dorms for conferences will be built over time.

As the center looks to enter the first phase, with a groundbreaking just six months away, they said they are now looking to firm up actual costs. According to Jewett Marketing Director Eric Cimon, Jewett takes on a number of nonprofit projects as part of its business mission and when he learned about the center’s plan, he thought it would be worth exploring.

“We made a strong push to get the project because we felt like it was a great opportunity,” he said. While the company has to cover its costs, making a profit “is not our priority” with the nonprofits.

“We make every effort to keep the cost down as creatively as possible. We have a lot of volunteer time and as we solicit bids we go out of our way to say, ‘Hey, can you give us a break on this?’ Some companies donate supplies others donate labor. And these projects allow us to work with subcontractors who are there for the same reason we are.”

Lamb and Tom Boisvert, chair of the board and chair of the capital campaign, both said they are hoping that some local contractors will consider becoming involved. With a tight construction market and high costs, said Boisvert, “we’re going to need all the help we can get.”

Meanwhile, the capital campaign continues. The campaign committee is still seeking leadership donors who have the capacity of contributing gifts of $10,000 or more, and in fact the center just received a $200,000 grant. Boisvert said the committee’s goal, having just raised $1 million, is to raise another $500,000 to $800,000 by the end of the year. The public campaign would begin sometime after that.

Lamb said the center is actually losing money with the current center — what was once a modest ranch-style home. In addition to the costs associated with heating and maintaining an old, uninsulated building, she said the center is losing thousands of dollars in earned income from school field trips and conference fees.

“We say no to all of that because we don’t have the space,” she said.

But in the end, she said, it all comes back to those small furred and feathered critters. “We are the only rehabilitation center of our kind in all of Maine and Seacoast New Hampshire,” said Lamb. “They are the reason that we do this work.”

Those interested in making a leadership donation are asked to email Development Director Emma Balina at Contractors and suppliers interested in becoming involved in the project are asked to email Dan Ray at Jewett Construction at