BY MICHAEL CAHILL
CORRECTION In the previous posting of this article, it was written that Marge Hook resigned from volunteering at the shelter in 2003. This information is incorrect. Marge Hook resigned in 2010 after having been a volunteer since 1990.
Several county legislators announced last week that they are sponsoring a resolution that would have the county contribute significant funds to help the beleaguered Hi-Tor Animal Shelter in Pomona.
According to a press release from the Rockland County Legislature, the county-owned building where the animal shelter is located is in need of dire repairs. A county inspection found that the building needs of a new roof, energy efficient windows, doors, lights and insulation, as well as upgrades to wall and floor surfaces.
The resolution, sponsored by Rockland County Legislators Alden H. Wolfe, Toney Earl, Jay Hood, Jr, and Ed Day, calls for at least $650,000 from the county for the repairs. This resolution comes as Hi-Tor is facing a budget shortfall so severe that those familiar with the matter say the shelter could close by this summer if it is not addressed.
Hi-Tor is a privately incorporated not-for-profit organization that receives it’s operating budget from a number of places. Part of the shelter’s money comes from the county, another part comes from contracts with the five towns in Rockland and the Village of Spring Valley, and another sizable part comes from donations.
Since 2003 the shelter has been using funds it inherited from a former volunteer to cover its budget shortfalls. Now that money is set to run out, and the shelter is looking for help from the county.
Chair of the Hi-Tor Board Roberta Bangs said that the drop in county funding over the years is to blame for the current fiscal situation. Bangs says that county funding is nearly half what it once was, but that adoptions have increased. “We do our best to make sure that every animal has a chance,” said Bangs.
But according to former Hi-Tor volunteer Marge Hook and other critics, the financial situation is the fault of Bangs and her board. Hook volunteered at Hi-Tor for 20 years before resigning in 2010. Hook says that the shelter is taking in too many animals that are not being adopted. This had lead to over crowding in the facility and driven up costs, which she believes has created the budget issue.
Hook warned two years ago that Hi-Tor was headed for a budget crisis and complained then that the board was going to ask for a bailout.
Legislator Ed Day said he feels that the county is responsible for the upkeep of the building, like a good landlord, and should pay for the repairs.
Even though there is no county law requiring the presence of an animal shelter, Day acknowledges that there is a need for it in Rockland. He said he wants to talk with all the stakeholders, including the municipalities, and create a plan for going forward. The resolution for the building repair at Hi-Tor is only the first step, he said.
However Day says that the resolution is “nowhere near a done deal.” There is still a lot of things to work out and legislators must also see where the money might come from. “This is a problem that’s been largely ignored with no one looking to pick up the ball and help,” said Day. “We’re simply trying to find a solution to a problem.”
Although she has a bone to pick with the board, Hook is still an animal lover. “I’ve fostered over 100 animals in my house, all at my own expense,” said Hook. “It breaks my heart but I won’t go back there until things change.”
According to the executive director of Hi-Tor Vivian Kiggins 248 dogs were adopted from Hi-Tor in 2011 as well as 481 cats. The number of animals euthanized by the shelter was not available.
At the county legislature on Tuesday, 40 or so pro-Hi-Tor activists showed up and said the legislature needs to fund animal control and animal care adequately in Rockland County.