BY DYLAN SKRILOFF
The County of Rockland and volunteers and board members of the Hi-Tor Animal Shelter in Pomona have been discussing plans to build a new Hi-Tor facility on the current facility’s existing property and property adjacent. The volunteers and board have gathered a generous array of supporters willing to foot the bill for a new facility.
However, some snags have been hit along the road, and the most recent one has sent volunteer Donald Franchino into a frenzy. Franchino blasted the county for not okaying a proposal for Hi-Tor to take several acres in front of the current shelter facility. The hold-up on the county’s end is that the area is parkland and the county says it is very complicated to transfer ownership of parkland. Such property, by definition, is in a special public trust, Ron Levine, spokesman for County Executive Scott Vanderhoef, said.
Franchino did not take kindly to the county’s view. He said in an email blast, “I will consider abandoning this effort and dump it in Scott and Harriet Cornell’s lap. After all they have successfully put this county in debt for the foreseeable future. They obviously are not willing to accept a million dollar shelter for free–let them build one and put this county deeper in debt…The requirements he has stated in his letter requires extensive work and cost on our end. This is not our responsibility but falls directly on the county. Let them work out the land at the county’s expense.”
He continued that he had helped with fundraising efforts because, “I took this on feeling the raising of necessary funds would be the issue. Little did I expect dysfunctional politicians and their staff to be the real hurdle. It is time the public be brought up to speed,” before warning that he might go national with the story. “If my interview on the Today program comes through, I have these politicians in my sights. I will have confirmation on the interview by tomorrow (Thursday, February 28).”
Susan Cerra from the County Executive’s Office, countered, “We had heard Franchino was interested in raising funds to help build new facility. One proposal wanted to acquire several acres of parkland. That one is problematic. We said there is land behind the shelter we’d be willing to give you. They think it’s too wet to build behind there. In the latest plan they wanted to use land in front of property again. That is, again, parkland. [Consultants] recommended against that proposal. We told Hi-Tor Board President Roberta Bangs we’d be willing to continue to talk to them.”
Levine added, “We have had a history with the county’s relationship with Hi-Tor and Don Franchino. We’ve had a whole team of people meeting with him and conversation back and forth since July. We spent dozens and dozens of people hours trying to work with them to come up w a solution. Nothing would please us more than to see them open a new facility. Parkland is parkland, we have an obligation to the public trust to protect this land.”
He continued, “We have not shut any doors. They have set deadlines on us. We are bound by certain duties and laws. They have to work with us. When they issue press advisories that are inflammatory and insulting to an extent, that doesn’t further their cause.”
Levine also said that animal shelters are typically town responsibilities, but the county had decided to get involved to help resolve the long-time issues at Hi-Tor.