Hi-Tor Animal Care Center Holds Public Hearing to Address Accusations, Announce Update on Shelter Rebuild

BY MICHAEL RICONDA

The Hi-Tor Animal Care Center’s Board of Directors met at the Clarkstown Town Hall on January 17 to update volunteers on future plans regarding the program to rebuild the aging shelter facility, and address rumors about board activities, which had been spreading online.

The board allowed public commentary specifically to address questions and criticisms of the board, many from supporters of former Hi-Tor executive director Vivian Higgins. Critics alleged that the board misused funds for their own benefit, treated volunteers poorly, and chose to keep bylaws which needlessly restrict access to the board.

“They’re taking sides,” volunteer Jennifer Landau said. “They want to be the ones that are running everything and they’re taking credit for the fundraising, which is not true. They’re losing volunteers left and right, including me.”

In response to critiques, Board President Roberta Bangs emphasized that as a 501(c) non-profit organization, Hi-Tor does not pay any of its volunteers, including board members.

According to Bangs, many of the objections were reactions to malicious Facebook posts by former members. She claimed the conflict has been an unpleasant but predictable aspect of often highly emotional non-profit work.

“In any industry that involves animals and certainly with anything like an animal shelter, you always have a lot of passionate people,” Bangs said. “They get very upset when you try to run the business as a business. We do everything we possibly can to stay open.”

In other matters, it was reported by the board that a request for a new facility was submitted to the County Legislature, but has not been met with a response. The county had previously offered a parcel of swampland behind the current building, but the board turned it down because it would require extensive, expensive work before it could meet county build requirements. The board is seeking approval from the county for a plot of land directly in front of the shelter.

In spite of 16 percent funding cuts over the course of three years and $73,000 in operating losses, the treasurer’s report suggested that there was reason for optimism, given $150,000 raised for the rebuild, $205,000 in other fundraising, and a $32,000 reduction in operating costs. These un-audited projections suggest that at this point, the rebuild was a strong possibility, pending the necessary permits and approvals.

Other announcements included a fundraising event at the River Club in Nyack on February 20 and a possible golf outing and fundraiser at the Minisceongo Golf Club on a date which is yet to be determined.