With almost $1.5 million shy of the originally anticipated funding, Mayor Michael Pavia unveiled a proposed budget Thursday, March 7, contained only a $300,000 bump in resources for an animal shelter seeking a new or upgraded home.
Initially, the Stamford Animal Care & Control Shelter was to receive approximately $2 million in appropriations to help build a new home on its current Magee Ave. footprint in the South End or relocate to an existing space, until it was reduced by the Stamford Planning Board to its current amount.
"I know there's $300,000 of new money and $200,000 of existing money," said Peter Privitera, Director of the Office of Policy & Management. "There's a half-million dollars of funding in this budget for the animal shelter."
The shelter is currently in a sad state, constantly overcrowded and with structural deficiencies, like cracks running along bathroom walls. Director Laurie Hollywood said she believes the funding was lost because a site hadn't been finalized yet, but that the possibility remains for the mayor to put the funding back in the budget at a later time if it becomes necessary.
"The Planning Board didn't want to keep the $2 million in the budget without having a site selected," Hollywood said. "They only wanted to keep the money in there that's going to be used. There are ways, I think, where more money could be allocated."
A study has already been conducted reviewing six possible plans for construction, re-purposing or rebuilding, according to Pavia. Issues arose with each of the candidates, Pavia said, and currently site plans seem constricted.
"There was a study already done looking at six different locations to relocate the animal shelter and some of them were good, some of them were discarded," Pavia said. "The ones that were good, however, were problematic in as much as they may take a year or two to get through the approval process. So we're focusing, right now, on having the animal shelter rebuilt according to the plan that was first envisioned on its present location or some expanded version of that."
Hollywood said that plan seems to make the most sense as the current state of the shelter favors speed over most other factors.
"Right now, the plan being considered is to rebuild here with some sort of addition," she said. "We'd be able to build faster here, without having to go through a lengthy process for a new building, waiting on appeals and public hearings. All of that takes time, which is part of the reason money was removed from the budget."
One idea Hollywood had favored was a move to North Stamford, where there is more space available and where the shelter responds to an abundance of calls, but city officials told Hollywood she should expect some opposition from that region in the relocation process.
"I was leaning towards North Stamford," Hollywood said. "What we were told was to expect issues with the North Stamford Association not wanting a dog pound in their neighborhood. Wherever we might have gone, we were expecting opposition."
The city was reluctant to reveal exactly what the favored plan entailed for the shelter, stating they would need more time before showing off how they would like to handle the rebuilding process or revealing what private contributors or local businesses might be involved in assisting with the future of the shelter.
"I think everyone is aware of the mayor's commitment to replace the animal shelter," said Michael Handler, Director of Administration. "And if everyone's just a little bit more patient, I think we'll be able to unveil a plan shortly that will explain just how we're able to do that."
The mayor did state that the city was currently in negotiations with Building Land Technology (BLT) in regards to parcels of land the company owns behind the current shelter and the developers current available access to land behind the waste management facilities next to the shelter.
"The discussions that we've had with several of the groups...pushing for a new animal shelter sooner rather than later are pretty much in agreement to do what's available now, make it work and provide a brand new shelter that's much better than the existing facility. So they're prepared to support the rebuilding of the shelter on that site," Pavia said, adding later "The animal shelter would be located on the site where it is with the possibility of some expansion. [Where exactly] we're in negotiation right now and talking to the adjacent property owner, which is BLT. I think we'll be able to provide some information that will move [the plan for construction] where it needs to be moved, and that is to the boards for decision making."
Hollywood said any decision for expansion does present some of its own issues. Much of the land surrounding the shelter is toxic and previously been capped. However, Hollywood said artifacts already occasionally make their way to the surface outside.
"Plastic and glass bottles and pieces from years ago are surfacing through the soil now. It's all capped and toxic," she said. "But we need the shelter now. We needed it last year. We needed it five years ago."