BY MICHAEL RICONDA
NEW CITY – Though the Hi-Tor Animal Shelter once had little assurance it would have the money for a much-needed move from its current location on Firemen’s Memorial Drive in Pomona, it now looks to have many friends with big pockets.
On Tuesday, the County Legislature’s Planning and Public Works Committee and Budget & Finance Committee both unanimously approved to create a new $500,000 capital project for Hi-Tor, a second potential windfall for the facility as it seeks to build a new center.
The project, which will likely be approved in a similar fashion by the full legislature, came only a few weeks after State Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski announced at a recent Hi-Tor gala and fundraiser that the State Assembly had pledged a $500,000 grant for the new facility.
According to County Legislative Chairman Alden Wolfe, the state grant and the shelter’s own successful fundraising efforts which raked in about $350,000 were decisive factors in the decision, making the project feasible rather than speculative and spurring him to introduce the resolution with fellow Legislator Jay Hood.
“Legislator Hood and I were talking and decided that it was time for Rockland county to finally step up,” Wolfe said. “I think it’s appropriate. It’s the right time and it’s the right thing to do.”
A capital project to rehabilitate the facility was introduced during the administration of former County Executive C. Scott Vannderhoef and went as far as an engineering study. However, that project was put on ice and never followed up.
Now, the need and feasibility of a new center has grown to a point that the Legislature appears comfortable with its financial support. According to Hood, the disrepair of the current facility and urgent need for a replacement was well-worth the current price tag, which would likely be bonded at the cost of $32,000 per year.
“That place is not adequate and has not been adequate,” Hood said. “$500,000 in the scope of our budget is not a lot of money”
Hi-Tor President Lizanne Fiorentino, who joined a jubilant crowd of Hi-Tor leadership and volunteers, praised the legislature for opting to support a replacement for the 43-year old facility. With enough money secured for the project, the animal shelter can now begin to meet with planners and engineers and pursue permits.
“It makes this dream of putting a shovel into the ground that much closer to being a reality,” Fiorentino said. “We would still be years away without this bond.”
The new facility, which will be donated to the county and leased back to Hi-Tor after its completion, appears poised for approval by the County Executive’s office as well. A letter of intent was signed by County Executive Ed Day in August th publicly announce the project and lay down a rough framework for its completion.