Waterford has a median household income of $71,000, East Lyme’s is $84,000, and both towns are suburban, have nonexistent murder rates and are predominately white. New London, meanwhile, has a median household income of $43,126, roughly as many minorities as whites and much higher violent crime rates.
So do the three towns have enough in common to share an animal shelter? Depends on whom you ask.
“I think there is a very good chance,” Waterford First Selectman Dan Steward said. “Once we see (New London’s) policies, we can work these things out.”
Meanwhile, Animal Control Facility Study Committee co-chair Margaret Ormond isn’t so optimistic.
“(New London) is not holding the project up, let’s put it that way,” Ormond said. “Right now, we are too far apart.”
Waterford and East Lyme have been sharing an animal control facility and animal control officers for more than 40 years. Salem also uses the facility, although not the animal control officer, to house its animals.
The agreement between East Lyme and Waterford says that East Lyme will pay for the animal control vehicle, while Waterford will pay for the building, Steward said. The current building was built in 1956 for $6,000, Steward, Ormond and Animal Control Officer Robert Yuchniuk said. It does not meet several current building codes, and needs to be replaced, they said.
To potentially make the facility cheaper, New London could join in, as broader regionalization usually equals cost savings, Steward said. However, for New London to join in with East Lyme-Waterford, some things might have to change on both sides, he said.
“The cultural environment is different,” Steward said. “They have many more incidents than (East Lyme and Waterford) do.”
New London also , according to state records. That’s because New London doesn’t have the room to house all the animals, Steward said, with information derived from a meeting with New London Police Chief Margaret Ackley.
“They have animals that are specifically trained to attack police officers,” Steward said. “They have different challenges than we do.”
Waterford’s current adoption policy is non-negotiable, Ormond said in a previous interview. In Waterford, a healthy animal would never be euthanized, she said.
Ackley met with the animal shelter committee Monday night, although little was accomplished, Ormond said. Ackley deferred the questions to Police Captain Michael Lacey, who heads the animal control department in New London, Ormond said.
“(Ackley) said she does not micromanage,” Ormond said. “So I guess we will have to talk to Captain Lacey.” Lacey is currently on leave, but the committee hopes to meet with him sometime in May, Ormond said. Lacey has candidly refused changing any of New London’s policies in private conversations, but perhaps he will change his mind in a public meeting, Ormond said.
The decision to join with New London or not has to be done quickly, because it greatly changes the size and potentially the location of the building, Ormond says. Whatever the building would be with East Lyme-Waterford, it would be double with New London added, Ormond said.
The group looked at a rough drawing of a 27-run facility in April. Ormond’s logic would put the facility at more than 50 dog runs, along with a larger cat room.
The current location of the animal shelter, behind youth services, is the location the town will look at first, Zoning Official Michael Gladden said. If the shelter is too big to fit though, another spot would have to be found, Gladden said.
The animal control facility committee is still looking for donations, and is about to complete a fundraising brochure. Many townspeople have raised money, in a variety of creative ways.
The group asked for a $45,000 designation from the board of finance in March for a drawing of the facility, but the finance board denied the request. Board member George Peteros has been an outspoken critic of spending money on a new shelter.
“The town is currently laying off employees and cutting human services, yet we are supposed to appropriate money for the perceived needs of stray dogs that wander across the (New London) border,” Peteros said in an earlier interview. “That doesn’t make sense to me.”