Plans for regional animal control facility starting to gel

By Martha Marteney - Staff Writer
South Windsor - posted Wed., Nov. 23, 2011
South Windsor Police Chief Matthew Reed talks about the proposed renovations to convert the fire station on Sullivan Avenue in South Windsor into a regional animal care facility for the towns of East Hartford, Manchester and South Windsor. Photos by Martha Marteney.
South Windsor Police Chief Matthew Reed talks about the proposed renovations to convert the fire station on Sullivan Avenue in South Windsor into a regional animal care facility for the towns of East Hartford, Manchester and South Windsor. Photos by Martha Marteney.

The plans for a regional animal control facility are “starting to gel,” said Julian Freund, budget and research officer for the town of Manchester and lead contact for the $515,000 grant awarded by the Office of Policy and Management for the new facility.

In 2008, the Capital Regional Council of Government submitted the grant for the acquisition of land for a new regional animal control facility on behalf of the towns of East Hartford, Hartford, Manchester and South Windsor. The original concept called for the building of a new facility, which would be managed by the Connecticut Humane Society, to accommodate the impounded animals. Since that time, the Connecticut Humane Society has stepped out of the project, according to CRCG Public Safety Director Cheryl Assis. She explained that Hartford is currently contracting services through another provider, but is still involved in the overall discussions.

By state statute, towns are responsible for animal control enforcement and providing for dogs taken into custody. If unclaimed by the owner in seven days, the animal may be placed with a new owner or humanely destroyed.

In addition to cost savings afforded by economies of scale, one of the benefits cited of a new facility was the creation of a facility that would be “more conducive to quality customer service and successful adoption of animals than can be provided at typical animal control shelter locations near landfills and sewer treatment plants.”

According to Freund, the towns involved have needed a facility for a number of years. Manchester’s kennel was located near the waste water treatment facility until recently, due to the upgrade to the sewer plant. Manchester is currently using a private kennel in Hebron to house the animals.

Manchester impounds some 240 dogs each year, with an average of five or six dogs held on any given day. That number can sometimes peak to 15. Freund said Manchester needs to have a minimum of 12 kennels available. Manchester also impounds approximately 75 cats every year, plus a dozen miscellaneous animals such as iguanas, parrots and rabbits. East Hartford impounds about 100 dogs every year and South Windsor shelters some 75 dogs. Thirty-six kennels would accommodate most daily needs of the three towns.

“It appears it’s not going to require a lot of out-of-pocket expense from the towns,” said Freund, referring to the availability of funding through the OPM grant. That grant has funded preliminary studies, including an architectural review of one potential site in South Windsor and the currently-pending feasibility study with cost estimates.

The former Company 3 fire station in South Windsor, located at 124 Sullivan Ave., is being seriously considered for the regional facility. “We have an ideal location with this property,” said South Windsor Police Chief Matthew Reed. The cinderblock building was constructed in 1965 and “is in great condition,” said Reed. With minimal interior renovations, the building would provide an office area for the animal control officers, a viewing room for medical examinations or pet adoptions, and an area for sheltering cats and other small pets, Reed said. Thirty-six kennels would be placed in the former garage, which has doors on both ends for ventilation. The building will need a new roof and boiler, possible upgrades to the generator, and modifications to the septic system, including hooking into the town sewer.

During the recent early-winter storm, South Windsor housed up to 10 dogs at the station, along with a rare tortoise. Reed noted that people were unwilling to leave their homes to go to the shelter unless there were adequate accommodations for their animals.

“It’s the only affordable way to do it,” said Reed. South Windsor previously paid the town of Vernon $20,000 per year for kennel services. That relationship was severed in July, since which time dogs have been held at the fire station. “It seems to me there should be some [cost] reductions,” he said. According to Reed, past utility costs for the fire station were approximately $11,000 per year.

Assis said that once the feasibility study is complete, the grant will be revised, based on the cost estimates and new budget. Assis anticipates that OMP will approve the modification, since it has funded the architectural review and feasibility study. The Department of Agriculture will also need to review the proposal to ensure that it meets all the current requirements for an animal shelter, such as the kennel size and waste disposal technology.

At the same time, the municipalities are drafting the agreement for the operation of the regional facility, including the sharing of space, maintenance costs and capital needs, and the creating and responsibility of an oversight committee. The agreement will then need to be approved by the governing body of each municipality.

Freund, Reed and Assis all agreed that the project could reasonably be completed in six months, to be ready next spring or early summer.


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