BY MICHAEL RICONDA
NEW CITY – After years of speculation and discussion, Hi-Tor Animal Shelter appears ready to move forward with a long-awaited relocation.
Hi-Tor representatives met with members of the County Legislature’s Budget & Finance Committee on November 12 to discuss their steps to move forward with the construction of a new shelter to replace their old one on Firemen’s Memorial Drive in Pomona.
Though a new location has not yet been finalized, the organization has already hosted preliminary talks with the County Executive’s Office and it seems likely the shelter will relocate to a vacant plot of land immediately behind current location. It is also expected that their old property will revert back to county ownership. Rockland currently leases the property on Firemen’s Memorial Drive to Hi-Tor.
New construction costs associated with the new building will be footed by Hi-Tor. According to Hi-Tor Vice President Sharon Needleman, the financial obligations associated with the move are significant, but the non-profit is “very much prepared to handle” the transition.
Hi-Tor President Lizanne Fiorentino similarly assured legislators that even before plans had been laid out, the financially-troubled non-profit had prepared itself by investing significant time and energy into a ground-up fiscal reconstruction.
“We’ve spent a great deal of time this year taking this organization apart and putting it back together again,” Fiorentino said.
The County Executive’s Office seems confident in Hi-Tor’s ability to implement its plans and issued a letter of intent for the project on August 22. Though there was some confusion as to whether or not the letter constituted a binding contract, Public Policy and Intergovernmental Relations Director Stephen Powers stated the letter was meant primarily to publicly announce the project and set down rough ideas for a final version of the agreement, which will be presented for legislative approval once it is complete.
Though such an approval was not explicitly outlined in the letter of intent, all involved agreed it would be required once an agreement has been laid out between the shelter and the county executive.
“As I read this agreement, I think we all agree it should be subject to legislative approval,” Leg. Ilan Schoenberger stated.
Legislators, though reassured by the explanation of the letter of intent, expressed some concern regarding Hi-Tor’s ability to raise the necessary funds. Leg. Alden Wolfe worried the deal was skewed unfairly in favor of the county and left Hi-Tor with financial obligations it might not be able to shoulder.
“Personally, I am uncomfortable with shifting so much of the burden onto Hi-Tor,” Wolfe said. “I don’t think it’s fair.”
Leg. Joseph Meyers, on the other hand, felt the plan was ultimately beneficial for the county, though it would be preferable if Hi-Tor also stood to benefit from agreeable financial terms.
“As far as the taxpayers are concerned, this is a good deal,” Meyers stated.