Two members of a panel charged with overseeing the town’s new animal control facility spent most of their presentation to the Board of Selectmen on September 16 detailing design and construction issues that are affecting the facility’s operation nearly a year after it officially opened.
Adria Henderson and Robin Olson, who lead the seven member Animal Control Advisory Board, appeared to present their annual report which is required as part of the board’s charge.
In introducing the pair, First Selectman Pat Llodra said the panel was appointed to be both a support system and “policy bridge” between the animal control center and the town. The group is also charged with developing and maintaining policies and best practices, the first selectman said.
Reading from a summary of the animal control board’s detailed report, Ms Henderson related a number of practices the panel helped initiate at the new facility including new intake and screening documents, new volunteer procedures, as well as an upgraded website information including links to adoptable dogs and cats.
She said the board also attended a seminar about new animal abuse laws, held a question and answer session with the town’s insurance agent, as well as a session with a national expert on kennels, volunteer programs and the behavior of dogs in a shelter environment.
Ms Henderson and Ms Olson then turned their attention to some of the major facility issues. The first concern was regarding the HVAC system in the facility.
According to the board’s summary, the system should incorporate air handling capability to bring fresh air into the cattery, filter it and circulate it out of the building separate from the dog kennel area. This is important because of the airborne diseases that could wipe out an entire cat population, if exposed, Ms Henderson said.
In addition, two separate fresh air circulators must be installed in the cat and dog quarantine areas to keep this air independent of what is circulated in the general dog kennel and cattery.
At that point Mrs Llodra said that she was not surprised to learn that the facility needed to have some additional work. Ms Henderson also talked about moving an unused utility counter to make room for several new cat cages to increase the number of cats the facility could maintain at any given time.
This prompted the first selectmen to ask how many cats the group planned to house at the town facility. Ms Henderson replied that the maximum number would be 16, with any additional cats being turned over to volunteer foster households in the area.
The pair then broadened their focus to the facility’s construction, telling selectmen that it appears the concrete floor was not poured correctly. That situation causes the guillotine doors that separate the kennels from the outdoor runs to not close correctly.
Ms Henderson said this compromises the efficiency of the air conditioning system, as well as the radiant heating system under the kennel floors. The report also suggests that concrete block walls in the dog kennel area need to be lowered to enhance air circulation.
Apparently kennel doors that were part of the original plan were not provided, forcing the town to call in an outside contractor to retrofit the doors with proper seals. Unfortunately, one experimental door designed with a seal to discourage dogs from chewing the soft material did not work as hoped, the women told the selectmen.
The animal control board members also pointed out that the outdoor play area is in complete and direct sun; that the grass surface of the gated play yard cannot be sanitized and should be replaced with new surfacing; and that gaps under the original outdoor fencing were so large that “small dogs would just leave,” Ms Henderson added.
Even after the fencing contractor came back to fix the issue, the gaps continue to remain a problem, the board members stated. Entry gates to the play yard are also too large, creating a potential for escape when dogs are entering or exiting the yard with staff or volunteers.
The pair also requested covering to be installed on outdoor kennel runs to shield dogs from direct sunlight.
Following the presentation, Mrs Llodra said that the selectmen seated the animal control board specifically to present this type of information to the town and public.
“We need to know how to make these situations better, and make sure focus stays on these issues,” the first selectman said.
“We just want to get the job done,” Ms Olson said.
A Difficult Project
Contacted after the meeting, Public Works Director Fred Hurley said that a number of the concerns are scheduled to be addressed soon, including installing covers on the kennel runs, and removing the cattery counter top.
Mr Hurley also defended the development of the facility saying it was a three year process, and that all plan review meetings during that time were open to the public. He agreed the ventilation issues were legitimate, but said that the system was designed before the town was forced by statute to add housing cats.
The public works chief said he is having an HVAC expert look into the board’s concerns to see how air flow and segmented air handling can be improved, and at what cost.
“I think we’ve done well making adjustments on how we fitted [the facility] out,” he said, adding that the general contractor went out of business during the end stage of the construction, hampering any ability to make immediate corrections.
“We feel good about it,” Mr Hurley said. “This was a difficult project with competing interests about what the facility is and how it is operated. Ninety percent of the issues are under control.”