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Town Plans Animal Shelter Improvements

Town Plans Animal Shelter Improvements

Local Group Seeks Private Donations, Plans Fundraiser

Four years ago, when Laura Torrence, a volunteer at the Woodbridge Animal Control facility, addressed the Board of Selectmen depicting the poor condition of the facility due to years of neglect, she held up a vision for a bright future not only for the animals and their caregivers, but the town as a whole, saying Animal Control could be “a chip in the town’s cap”.  Thanks to a state STEAP (Small Town Economic Assistance) grant, that vision just moved closer to becoming a reality than ever before.  Architects Silver Petrucelli drew up plans that will not only connect the facility to public water supply, but provide a new roof, upgrades of plumbing and mechanicals and an expansion of the spaces for dogs, cats and humans.

However low-key the plan may be, it is projected to cost the town $1.4 million, said Architect David Stein when he made a presentation at the May 10 Board of Selectmen meeting.  The state grant however is for only $400,000.  The Building Committee, consisting of First Selectman-elect Beth Heller, Town Clerk Stephanie Ciarleglio, construction planner and resident Leland Torrence and town Finance Director Tony Genovese, hopes to fill the gap through private donations on the one hand and by planning the project out in phases.

Dance For The Animals

Dubbed “Come Run With the Big Dogs!,” the first fundraising event, a dance with buffet, DJ, 50/50 raffle and a silent auction, is planned for Sunday, June 4, 4-7 p.m. at Birchwoods at Oak Lane, 1027 Racebrook Road.  Tickets are $100 and can be purchased at the Animal Control facility, 135 Bradley Road, or the Town Clerk offices in Woodbridge, Bethany and Seymour.  Checks should be made out to One Big Dog Animal Respite Fund, the shelter’s fundraising arm.  Donations are tax deductible.

Project Outline

At the selectmen’s meeting, Architect David Stein said in evaluating the condition of the current building and the mission of the project, “we knew we had a challege in front us.  The current facility, squeezed into a 1.8-acre lot on Bradley Road, between a vacant office building on one side, Konolds Pond, and a stone quarry on the other, does not allow for much expansion at all.  Another limiting factor is the budgetary constraint.

Silver Petrucelli’s recommends using the grant to update the plumbing, the electrical and mechanical improvements in a first phase.  These improvements should be done in such a way that allows for future expansion of the dog runs and office.

The committee’s priority is to solve the water supply problem, Heller said at the meeting.  For years, Animal Control Officer Karen Lombardi and others have been ordering bottled water for the animals and humans at the shelter.  The well water in that location is full of calcium and sodium chloride (salt), and has proved caustic to plumbing and equipment.  A new filtration system was clogged in no time, Lombardi said.  The town tried drilling a second well, but the water derived from there was even worse.

Under the new plans, the facility will be hooked up to the public water line that currently stops further up Bradley Road near Lunar Drive.  In addition to the updated plumbing and electrical (Phase 1), the plans also show an expanded office area, a meeting room, a bigger cat room and an accessible bathroom (Phase 3).  These two phases are the committee’s priorities, Stein said.  Phase 2 calls for 14 additional dog runs.  When asked about the need for those, Lombardi said the shelter has been consistently full throughout the winter.  In addition to Woodbridge, they are serving as the animal control facility for Seymour and Bethany.  For years there have been efforts to add another municipality, but “to do that we need to plan for it now,” Lombardi told the selectmen.  In a phone conversation she also said the expansion will allow for an improved grooming area and an actual quarantine area.

Woodbridge Finance Director Tony Genovese said the town has budgeted $10,000 for a new roof, but other than that there are no plans to pay for any of the planned upgrades.  The other participating towns pay a fee for using the service, but as far as the building is concerned, it belongs to the town.  Even so, the fact that the update will benefit more than one community may have strengthened the state grant application, Genovese said.

Selectman Joe Dey was a bit skeptical when he heard about the committee’s plans.  “It’s a long road to get there,” he said.  Beth Heller struck an optimistic note.  “We are confident we are going to get there,” she said.

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By Bettina Thiel – Woodbridge Town News Correspondent

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