Regional animal shelter could be on horizon

Waterford — Town and city leaders say there's ongoing discussion on a potential regional animal shelter that could house animals from Waterford, East Lyme, Montville and New London.

While officials say they haven't nailed down specific locations or whether to construct a new facility or renovate an existing one, they all agreed they could save money and better serve the animals in a shared facility.

"We've got to take the time to figure out what's right," Waterford First Selectman Dan Steward said Friday. "It's got to be convenient to all of the communities and has to have enough kennels."

A handful of dogs from the dilapidated Waterford-East Lyme Animal Shelter have been housed in the New London facility for the last couple weeks.

"We've always been a friend and neighbor," Capt. Brian Wright of the New London Police Department said. "We are always open to a way to be more efficient and provide a great quality service to the citizens of our respective towns. Regionalization in general makes sense. It provides a bigger bang for the buck."

Wright added that New London Animal Control has plenty of room to house Waterford-East Lyme's animals for the foreseeable future.

Steward said the shared facility at 41 Avery Lane in Waterford has suffered ongoing heat and water problems.

"It's not appropriate to house animals in a facility that can't be taken care of," he said.

Steward also was adamant that money residents donated over the years in support of the shelter was earmarked for improvements or a new facility, including the expanded shared shelter under discussion.

"If we're able to build a shelter, that money goes to the shelter so these animals have almost a Hilton," Steward said.

At this week's Waterford Board of Finance meeting, officials noted the Animal Control Facility Fund had a balance of $212,801 at the end of fiscal year 2017, up about $300 from the prior year.

"Kids had fundraisers instead of birthday parties," Ramona Neto of Waterford said about fundraising efforts over the last several years. "I don't have a problem with them merging. It's a win-win for the animals. I just want to make sure the money gets used for the dogs."

Mark Nickerson, East Lyme's first selectman, said he and Steward "have been very committed to finding a solution."

Nickerson agreed the current facility shared with Waterford is substandard and that both the animals and control officers deserve better. If officials decide to upgrade and expand that building, it could provide an improved shelter relatively close to all the communities, Nickerson said.

Previous plans to create a regional shelter at Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Facility in Uncasville fell through and do not appear to be on the table anymore, with officials citing challenges coordinating with state agencies.

Montville Mayor Ron McDaniel said the idea of a regional facility had been kicked around for the last six years, but recent talks seemed to have gained traction.

"There's no sense in everybody having a giant facility to take care of the animals when we can do it in one place," McDaniel said. He added that while he continues to explore a regional facility, the final call would rest with the Town Council.

b.kail@theday.com

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