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County Executive Says Deadline For Construction Bid Expires Mid-Sept.; Taxpayers Have Already Spent More Than $500,000 On Design For New Shelter In Pomona
Clover Stadium Says It Plans To Switch To Quieter Fireworks
By Tina Traster
County Executive Ed Day is mad and he’s not mincing his words.
In a sharply worded letter dated Aug. 16 sent to the county’s five town supervisors, Day says he is still awaiting information or suggestions on an alternative site to build a new county animal shelter while the deadline for a construction bid for the Hi-Tor Animal Shelter rebuild is set to expire in mid-September.
“Despite promising to be part of the solution, to date we have not received any suggestions, calls, follow-up meetings, or promised shovel-ready locations for a new shelter submitted from anyone,” Day wrote.
In July, the new shelter project, thought to be on track, stalled when the County Legislature tabled a resolution to fund the project, which called for an additional $10 million to the already earmarked $8 million for building a state-of-the-art 14,000 square-foot facility on site at the shelter’s current location in Pomona. In delaying the vote, county legislators raised questions over who would head up the shelter, saying they wanted more exploration on the subject.
Subsequently, town supervisors began to suggest that alternative sites should be considered for the purpose of potentially saving taxpayer money and it would be an opportunity to relocate a shelter away from the sound of fireworks at the nearby Clover Stadium. The issue over the fireworks has been going on for several years, but may be moot as officials at Clover Stadium plan to switch to quieter and less disruptive fireworks beginning next season.
This upheaval over whether to fund the shelter or where it should be sited has blown a long-awaited shelter upgrade off course, leading Day to say in this letter: “You are all playing with fire by risking precious taxpayer dollars while putting the safety of these animals at risk.”
Day in the letter points out that county taxpayers have already invested “$524,963 in architectural and engineering services in addition to the hundreds of thousands spent over the years to keep this shelter running.”
Concern over Hi-Tor’s future began nearly a year before the Legislature tabled the vote.
For months, questions have swirled around who will run the shelter, particularly as Rockland Green, the former Rockland County Solid Waste Management Authority, set out to change its mission to control animal management and expressed interest in taking over shelter management when the new shelter is built.
Rockland Green’s Chairman Howard Phillips, who is also the Town Supervisor of Haverstraw, has repeatedly said in public forums that Hi-Tor needs new leadership, and more recently he’s raised the notion that the shelter rebuild should not necessarily be constructed on the Pomona site, which has been in the making for years. He, along with the other supervisors, have been suggesting alternative sites, though at least one in Orangetown has been rejected.
Town Supervisor Jim Monaghan, who said he’s open to all possibilities, said there is no suitable site in Stony Point.
“I’m not leading the charge but I’m open to all options,” said Monaghan. “I’m open to moving forward with current shelter if there’s suitable taxpayer savings and if it’s good for the animals.”
Town Supervisor Michael Specht, who also noted that he’s not leading this effort, said there’s a town-owned site of vacant land in Torne Valley that might be suitable. The remote site in the far western corner of the county, Specht said, is adjacent to Rockland Green’s facilities.
“There’s a location that’s owned by the town that’s not far from Rockland Green facility that’s one of the options but at this time I have to defer to Phillips, who is taking the lead, who is the most senior of the supervisors, who is acting as the spokesman.”
Phillips says the town supervisors are working to find a solution.
“The cost of the bids and proposals that came back to the county were exorbitantly high and that as elected officials we needed to further investigate and see whether or not we could reduce the cost to the taxpayer,” said Phillips. “At the same meeting, it was expressed that there was a petition opposing the new shelter at its current location because of the fireworks from Boulder Stadium affecting the animals. It was obvious to everyone that attended that we needed to look at alternatives. We are continuing to do so and as everyone knows it’s extremely challenging to get everyone together during the summer.”
But the New York Boulders team president Shawn Reilly said the stadium plans to switch up the fireworks for all but two of its shows with explosives that have a lower profile and that are substantially less noisy. “These fireworks will be more like shooting off Roman candles as opposed to commercial grade fireworks. We want to be good neighbors,” he said.
It is unclear as to whether the supervisors are casting for a plot of vacant land or are contemplating proposals on rehabbing an existing building. Either way, a modern, state-of-the-art shelter is an expensive proposition because it must take into account accommodations for ventilation, interior design, odor and noise control, security, sound buffers, bacterial controls, impermeable floors, and outdoor space for the dogs.
With his hands tied, and the construction bid at risk, Day is urging the supervisors to act.
“We have an extension on the construction bid until mid-September, which will need to be reissued if it expires, and given inflationary pressures, I can only assume that would increase the cost yet again and further burden Rockland taxpayers, which must be avoided at all costs.”
Responding to concerns from both legislators and town supervisors over who will run the shelter, the county’s Department of General Services Purchasing Department on July 19 posted a “Request for Information” on Bidnet, a statewide municipal bidding website for an entity to “provide animal shelter management and operation services.”
The county said it was seeking to identify organizations that can either provide services at the existing facility for 24 months beginning Jan. 2023 or one that would be interested in operating a new facility when completed, or both.
Last week, just two entities – both in the business of managing animals – responded to Rockland County’s invitation to express interest in running the county-owned animal shelter. But only Hi-Tor, which has been running the shelter for 50 years, said it wanted to run the shelter as it exists now, and in the future when –and if — a new shelter is built.
In contrast, The Hudson Valley Humane Society, also located in Pomona, threw its hat in the ring but only showed an interest in running the long hoped-for but stalled multi-million-dollar shelter that has now become the fulcrum of much tension and controversy.
“This recent Request for Information (RFI) underlines something we’ve said repeatedly, which is Hi-Tor is the only organization willing to utilize that outdated facility,” said Day. Day urges the supervisors to either provide detailed alternative solutions or reaffirm their commitment to move forward with the new shelter.