|Date:||June 9, 2016|
By Jean Falbo-Sosnovich, New Haven Register
SEYMOUR - In the best interest of the town’s furry friends, the Board of Selectmen unanimously voted Tuesday to regionalize its animal shelter with neighboring Woodbridge.
The vote, however, came despite pleas from about a dozen residents, mostly volunteers at Seymour Animal Shelter, to keep the facility here.
Selectmen said the decision to close the Seymour facility, located at 115 Silvermine Road since 2005, and merge with Woodbridge was not done in haste.
First Selectman Kurt Miller said regionalizing with Woodbridge’s animal shelter, which also includes the Town of Bethany, not only will provide Seymour animals with a much larger facility, but provide far more employee coverage. Woodbridge’s shelter currently has two full-time animal control officers, two part-time kennel assistants, along with volunteers, has 20 indoor and outdoor dog runs, a separate cat room and 24/7 coverage.
Seymour’s shelter has a part-time animal control officer, a part-time assistant and numerous volunteers. The facility, which is basically a small, Quonset-style building, was only meant to be a temporary structure, officials said, and needs repairs.
Miller said if Seymour hired a full-time animal control officer, and two part-timers, along with operational costs/maintenance, it would cost the town more than $113,000 a year, and that’s without factoring in the cost to build a new shelter, which Miller estimated upward of $250,000. A new property to house a new shelter would also be necessary, as Miller said the current parcel isn’t adequate for an expansion.
The one-year contract, which takes effect July 1, that selectmen approved Tuesday will cost the town $70,000 per year, which includes any associated veterinarian expenses, supplies, etc. Seymour’s current budget for animal control services is $50,000. Under the new contract, Seymour would not be responsible for any upgrades, capital improvements and any other costs associated with Woodbridge’s shelter, according to Woodbridge’s Finance Director Tony Genovese, who was on hand at Tuesday’s selectmen’s meeting.
The contract also includes an opt-out clause, allowing Seymour to leave Woodbridge, giving six months’ notice, if the merger isn’t working out.
Selectmen also unanimously voted to lease the Silvermine Road shelter to local animal rescue group CARES — Coco’s Animal Rescue Effort of Seymour — giving volunteers an opportunity to continue to work with animals.
Resident Joan Thomas said the selectmen making a decision without townspeople’s input was “unfair,” and said the dedicated volunteers who spend hours walking and feeding the cats and dogs “give their hearts away” to the animals.
Shelter volunteer Wendy Camp was moved to tears in pleading to keep the shelter here. She said the town’s Animal Control Officer Deb Ice found her dog wandering the streets a few years back, after he got loose when his electronic collar failed. Ice tracked down Camp and stayed with the dog until Camp was able to retrieve him.
Many selectmen said the merger is in the best interest of animals. Miller said Ice made a recommendation a couple of years ago to do just that.
“Our current set-up with animal control isn’t adequate for the town,” Miller said. “Above all, and most importantly, is the care of the animals.”
Deputy Selectman Nicole Klarides-Ditria, an avid animal lover with four cats, said it’s the right move for Seymour.
“We want to make sure the animals have the best care ... and this seems like the best option to house our furry friends,” she said.
Selectman Karen Stanek, a cat owner, concurred, saying, “We’re trying to do what’s best for the animals and if there’s a facility that can provide a better environment for them, then I’ll vote for it any day of the week.”