Regional animal shelter moves forward

New London — The long-planned expansion of New London’s Bates Woods animal control facility to include animals from Waterford and East Lyme is pushing closer to reality.

Earlier this month, the Waterford Representative Town Meeting authorized First Selectman Dan Steward to sign an interlocal agreement between the municipalities. Officials say East Lyme and New London will hop on board and sign the document in the coming weeks, capping off several months of logistical legwork and negotiations in a regionalization effort that’s been in the works in varied forms for about a decade.

The new agreement adds New London to the longtime partnership between East Lyme and Waterford. Waterford has housed East Lyme’s animals for several years, while East Lyme has provided a vehicle and the towns split the cost of personnel and expenses. That arrangement largely will remain the same in the new facility, where New London will separately employ an animal control officer to work jointly with the other towns’ officers.

The previous Waterford-East Lyme Animal Shelter, at 41 Avery Lane in Waterford, suffered severe heating and water problems preventing the building from functioning, Steward said.

“It’s a win-win in all ways,” Steward said of the deal on Friday. “We’re going to get a nice facility and it ends up in the right place. We’ve had our animals there for a while now and it’s been a great relationship. Let’s finish this and make it permanent.”

“It’s very exciting. We’re looking forward to this partnership,” New London Mayor Michael Passero said on Friday. “Everybody wants to regionalize but I don’t think people realize the work it takes, even with three willing towns.”

Passero said the city would seek bids from contractors as soon as all three municipalities sign the agreement, adding that construction could begin “by spring, if not sooner. We are fast-tracking it.”

Waterford will foot the roughly $250,000 bill for the expansion. The town’s Animal Control Facility Fund, including money raised by residents and volunteers over the years, contains about $212,000 to cover the bulk of the funding. Waterford still has about $50,000 earmarked for building designs that it now can apply to construction of new kennels and infrastructure at the regional facility.

Separate plans for a regional shelter at Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Facility in Uncasville hit funding snags and challenges with state agencies a few years ago.

East Lyme First Selectman Mark Nickerson noted the animal control officers and care of the animals “will remain separate but there will be lots of opportunities to share and make things more efficient. The animals will be well taken care of, certainly better than they have been in years past.”

The East Lyme Board of Selectmen may authorize Nickerson to sign the interlocal agreement later this week, and the New London City Council then will consider authorizing the mayor to finalize the partnership.

Montville officials earlier this year considered joining the regional shelter but now are focused on building a new facility to replace that town's dilapidated structure on Maple Avenue.

b.kail@theday.com

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