2007-01-25 / News

Renovations for temporary animal shelter to begin soon

By Michaela Kennedy

Friends of the Jamestown Animal Shelter Construction Project will start renovations on Saturday, Jan. 27, at the former recreation garage at 44 Southwest Ave., behind the Town Offices. Volunteers with various areas of construction expertise are invited to help make the project a success.

Town Councilwoman Barbara Szepatowski, leader of the operation, met with a sparse turnout at a kick-off meeting for volunteers held at the library on Jan. 18. "This is a show-and-tell project," Szepatowski said, explaining that having a site with an active rescue operation will prove that a shelter is needed on the island. "Come May, we'll have anywhere from 20 to 30 abandoned kittens," she added.

A site inspection took place on Friday, Jan. 19, by a state veterinarian, and plans for the beautification campaign should be finalized by Friday, Jan. 26. Renovation work is expected to be finished with a final inspection mid-March, to be followed by the official opening, according to Szepatowski. Once the shelter is open, daily operations of the community effort may be tied into after-school programs, she added.

Although the site is only a temporary fix to a larger problem, Szepatowski noted the show of commitment toward a shelter with a centralized site "allows us to go after grant money." The volunteer group was still actively seeking a permanent home for the shelter, she said.

Szepatowski told those present that assistance was needed with Sheetrocking, suspended ceiling installation, window replacement, and other cleaning and repairs at the building. "We'll start immediately with the windows," she said, noting that the replacement windows were salvaged from the old planning office.

Once the shelter is up and running, volunteers to visit and handle the animals on a regular basis will be crucial, the councilwoman said. Already volunteers take in animals, update the breed and animal rescue network, and help seniors with veterinary bills through care and monetary support. "We have a good network," she added.

Veterinary bills for animals rescued through the network average $2,000 per year, with upwards of $10,000 needed for food and cat litter, according to Szepatowski. "There are many animal lovers on this island who kindly give us donations," she added.

Town Administrator Bruce Keiser expressed support for the plan by telephone earlier this week. "The improvements to the building may enhance the property value for the town," he said, adding that the renovations used "no taxpayers' money." The town plans to sell the lot to an affordable housing developer later in the year, after the new town hall complex is completed.

Keiser noted that the town has liability insurance to cover an animal shelter on the island.

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