Reconstruction of animal shelter in Rockland begins, but what about mandates

The county said the new refuge is expected to be completed by mid-2023, but it wasn’t sure who would operate it.

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POMONA – Rockland County is investing nearly $ 7 million in a new animal shelter, even as an investigation involving the Hi-Tor Animal Care Center continues.

Meanwhile, the city’s five wardens continue their efforts to take over management of the shelter, which takes care of thousands of cats and dogs each year.

The county held a groundbreaking ceremony at the Firemen’s Memorial Drive property last week and announced a completion date for a new shelter – mid-2023. But it is not yet known whether Hi-Tor will be the operator.

“We all want to make sure the animals are well cared for and we want to make sure that taxpayer dollars are protected,” Haverstraw supervisor Howard Phillips said Monday. Phillips is president of Rockland Green, the county solid waste authority.

The project is priced at $ 8.3 million, with the lion’s share coming from the county’s investment project funding.

Hi-Tor has run the shelter for decades and has been going through periods of controversy for years.

On August 4, the Rockland County District Attorney served warrants on Hi-Tor. A DA spokesperson declined to provide any update this week on the previous property search or ongoing investigation.

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“What he’s looking at we don’t know,” Rockland County Director Ed Day said in August of the prosecutor’s investigation. At the time, Day was only saying that there were “a number of problems” in the facility.

Hi-Tor board chairwoman Debbie DiBernardo was among those holding a shiny shovel on October 21.

An agreement from the county legislature for Hi-Tor to operate and manage the refuge ends on December 31, 2022.

Municipal supervisors are looking for a position

“I think it would be a great marriage,” Phillips said of Rockland Green taking a leadership role at the facility.

The city’s five supervisors are commissioners from Rockland Green, Phillips said. Under New York law, cities and towns are responsible for animal control. “We are the ones who provide the most income to pay for running a shelter.”

City supervisors have repeatedly expressed concerns about the management of the shelter. In February, Orangetown supervisor Teresa Kenny announced that the city would stop using Hi-Tor. Kenny said at the time that Orangetown would consider Hi-Tor in 2022 if professionals managed the refuge.

The decision on Rockland Green’s offer, Phillips said, is up to the county.

“It’s taxpayers’ money,” Phillips said of the $ 6.9 million capital project funding for the renovated facility at the end of Firemen’s Memorial Drive in Pomona.

Phillips said Rockland Green is running a $ 60 million operation, so the authority has the expertise to operate the refuge effectively.

“I think we could handle if it was asking someone to exploit it,” Phillips said. “But under the aegis of professional staff.”

The shelter was in the spotlight a few years ago, when the dismissal of a shelter manager prompted volunteers to come out and protest Hi-Tor.

Shovels (almost) in the ground

Hi-Tor has long operated its non-profit shelter on the site, adjacent to the County Fire Training Center and near Palisades Credit Union Park in Ramapo, home of the Rockland Boulders baseball team.

While improvements have been made to county-owned buildings over the years, the facility is generally dilapidated and trailers are needed to expand the footprint.

Day said last week that requests for proposals had been issued for the project.

After six weeks, an offer would be selected, Day said. The county legislature must approve. Construction is expected to begin in the spring. The project is expected to last 14 months.

The new facility, designed by Rauhaus Freedenfeld & Associates Architects, will have an area of ​​14,000 square feet; Hi-Tor is currently overcrowded by 4,000 square feet.

“The new shelter is designed not only to provide a healthy home for animals, but also to promote and facilitate pet adoptions in a warm and welcoming environment,” Day said.

The new design would help dogs and cats be more visible to visitors. There will be a housing area for exotic animals and small mammals. Hi-Tor receives a variety of animals and often has many rabbits in her care.

According to the profile of the association on GuideStar, the shelter manages 2,500 animals a year with the goal of finding permanent homes for pets, including cats, dogs, rabbits and other animals.

There will be a quarantine and wildcat room. Ringworm in cats is spreading rapidly and the shelter has had to deal with epidemics and even had to close in December 2018 in the midst of an outbreak.

The new facility will be funded as follows:

  • Hi-Tor Shelter Fund contributed $ 472,578;
  • Assembly member Ken Zebrowski won a grant of $ 500.00;
  • the balance of $ 6.9 million is from Rockland County capital project funding.

Nancy Cutler writes on People & Policy. Click here for his latest stories. Follow her on Twitter at @nancyrockland.