By a vote of 16-1, the Rockland County Legislature passed a resolution at Tuesday’s meeting to amend the Capital Projects Budget to facilitate the repair of the Hi-Tor Animal Care Center.
The resolution calls the repairs to be a $650,000 project.
Many supporters, volunteers and board members came to Tuesday’s meeting to speak about the shelter. The state of the building has been in discussion for a while, as the shelter can’t fully pay for repairs or a new building due to its financial situation. Its supporters spoke about the need to keep the county’s only shelter open.
“Above all else, forget county and state laws, we need this animal shelter," said Jennifer Landau. “The shelter provides jobs and economic stability, and a safe environment for the animals that find themselves homeless.”
Landau and others in attendance recently formed a group called Save Hi-Tor, a group that has more than 900 “Likes” on Facebook and updates those in the community about what they can do to help try and save the shelter.
“We know the shelter is woefully inadequate. I’m not going to harp on that again,” said Arlene Kahn, the list administrator for the Save Hi-Tor Facebook group. “I just am very thankful to all of you who are on board with this, and those of you who are not, I strongly urge you to look inside yourself, look at the conditions at Hi Tor, look at what is going on at Hi Tor and I urge you to do the right thing.”
While the vote passed, many legislators warned that the vote itself wasn’t to give money to Hi-Tor. At least not yet.
“This is not an appropriation. We are not spending any money today. It is the start of a multi-step process,” said Legislator Alden Wolfe, vice chair of the legislature. “What this does, it basically puts the process on the drawing board. There are no plans, there are no designs. There is no real definitive costing that’s been done, nothing’s been bid. This is the start of a process that is going to require the cooperation of many other parties. That includes the county executive, that includes the five towns, that includes the villages that collect license fees, which I believe at this point is the Village of Spring Valley.”
Legislator Ilan Schoenberger said about five or six years ago, he and then-Legislator Gerold Bierker passed a similar resolution to get Hi-Tor in the Capital Projects Budget for $5 million to build an entirely new building.
“That never resulted in appropriation, that never resulted in expenditure of money,” Schoenberger said. “The administration never moved the project forward and it died.”
He did vote in favor of the resolution, however, because he said that in county government, before you can go ahead with a capital project, it has to be in the Capital Project Budget.
Others, like Schoenberger and Wolfe, voted in favor of the resolution merely to show their support of Hi-Tor and its need for a repaired or new facility while also cautioning any excitement over Tuesday’s vote.
“This is nothing more than a dog and pony show, and we’re wasting all of your time,” said Legislator Frank Sparaco. “I’m going to vote for this tonight. I’m voting for air. I might as well be voting to spend a billion dollars to build a ladder to Mars. This is nothing. We’re wasting all of your time.”
The only legislator to vote against the resolution was Legislator Douglas Jobson, who said he remembers when Schoenberger and Bierker brought up a similar resolution a few years back and that he supported it then. He said they need a group of new people to get to a table and start fresh with how to help Hi-Tor.
“If you want to be realistic, get the bulldozers out and start from scratch. Put a new foundation up and building something the county can be proud of,” he said. “Get the five towns on board, get the villages on board. We are the landlord, like it or not, but I think it’s kind of a Band-aid approach that we’re looking at here.”