Montville studies new animal shelter as regional plan pushes forward

Montville — The small building on Maple Avenue that annually houses 150 to 200 dogs and cats "has done a good job," according to Animal Control Officer Christian Swanson.

"It's just tired," she said of the dilapidated animal control facility. "It's very difficult to keep warm. There are no bathrooms, no desks, no space. We have to have cats in dog kennels. We do our best to keep it as comfortable as possible."

During an annual inspection, the state Department of Agriculture found "some problems that needed to be fixed," including a crack in the mortar on one side of the building, Swanson said.

Several town officials say renovations would prove too expensive, and for years Montville has explored options including a new regional facility with other towns. But officials are also exploring building a new shelter in town. The Public Safety Commission recently began researching space needs, with Mayor Ron McDaniel noting they want to review potential sites and utility costs.

The Public Safety Commission meets at 6 p.m. Monday at Town Hall and is scheduled to discuss the animal shelter.

Swanson, who works full-time alongside two part-timers, said the current structure houses animals from Uncasville, Oakdale, Chesterfield and, for about a year, Salem. Montville has housed Salem animals since that town ended its agreement with Colchester, which decided to regionalize with the Northeastern Connecticut Council of Governments' animal services program.

Swanson said she'd "love to keep a shelter in Montville if at all possible. But I understand it all depends on the cost."

Plans for a regional shelter at Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Facility in Uncasville hit funding snags and challenges with state agencies a few years ago. Along with New London — and Waterford and East Lyme, whose shared facility is plagued by heating and water issues — Montville earlier this year signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to potentially join forces and expand the Animal Control Facility at Bates Woods Park into a regional shelter.

Montville officials estimate it could cost about $130,000 to join the New London regional facility, but questions remain about maintenance and operations costs.

Plans for the regional expansion at Bates Woods are rolling on, as attorneys from each town plan to meet in the coming weeks to discuss a potential interlocal agreement. The agreement will address capital expenses, the scope of expansion construction, upkeep and personnel.

Leaders in Waterford and New London say costs should not ramp up if Montville decides to pull out of the regional plan, as officials would cut costs by reducing the number of new kennels at Bates Woods.

Waterford First Selectman Dan Steward said officials hope to prepare the interlocal agreement for the Representative Town Meeting's review in October.

He noted costs for a regional shelter are down compared to the previous plan for a facility at the prison, which was bewteen $700,000 and $1 million. Officials estimate expansion in New London with "all four communities" could total less than $500,000, Steward said.

New London Mayor Michael Passero said he hoped Montville joined in the regional facility, but he doesn't "see any risk to Waterford-East Lyme and New London's partnership. We expect to move forward quickly."

New London has housed Waterford-East Lyme's animals for several months.

Waterford has an Animal Control Facility Fund with a balance of about $212,000 as of the end of fiscal year 2017. Steward has said the money residents and volunteers donated over the years in support of the shelter was earmarked for improvements for a new facility or the expanded shelter in the works.

b.kail@theday.com

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