2008-05-29 / Front Page

Does Jamestown need an animal shelter?

By Sam Bari

Councilwoman Barbara Szepatowski solicited the help of a Lawn Avenue School eighth grade class to make a presentation to the Town Council and town residents to answer the question about Jamestown's need for an animal shelter.

The Tuesday night workshop preceded the regular Town Council meeting. The students and Szepatowski made a strong case that abandoned and unwanted animals need a place to go. Whether a shelter in Jamestown is the answer to the problem is yet to be determined.

"I would like to make use of the old water treatment plant," Szepatowski said. "This is just an idea, and has not been endorsed or encouraged by anyone. It is just an idea. I think the building would be an excellent shelter and nature center."

Convincing her fellow council members to consider turning the old water treatment plant on North Main Road into an animal shelter in 2009 was the focus of the presentation. The building is earmarked to be used as a storage facility after the new plant is up and running next year.

"At this time there isn't a place on the island that is approved by the zoning board to house animals," Szepatowski said. "Since 2007 we have not had a place. We don't have a contract with the Potter League or with the North Kingstown shelter to bring our animals."

Szepatowski pointed out that the property at 44 Southwest Ave. will probably not be available because of Native American artifacts and other features that limit the use of the old town office building. She said that since 2000 her company, Paws and Claws, along with the help of the Friends of the Jamestown Animal Shelter have found homes for 561 animals in need of adoption.

"The problem is, Paws and Claws is no longer open," Szepatowski said. "Consequently, 50 to 100 animals a month have nowhere to go except other shelters where there is not always room."

Lawn Avenue School teacher Maureen McGuirl made the campaign for an animal shelter a class graduation project called Project Good Citizen. The students researched the need for an island animal shelter and endorsed the idea of tying a nature center to the facility.

The students presented the shortcomings of using shelters in neighboring towns, and emphasized the importance of having a facility on the island that was dependable and convenient.

"Stray animals can be a health problem, with rabies and other diseases," they said.

"The Osprey and Coyote study could be included as part of the animal shelter program," they added, emphasizing that education about the importance of this matter is essential to the shelter's success. They also mentioned that recent foreclosures of properties have left more animals homeless.

The student's comprehensive presentation drew warm applause from the audience attending the workshop, and most appeared to be supportive of the idea. When Szepatowski opened the floor for questions, few were asked.

To illustrate the support for her idea, Szepatowski thanked, "The sixth grade class at Lawn Avenue School who made and sold jewelry and gave us a check for the animal shelter for $36 with a card they made themselves."

She also thanked "The kids from the Village Hearth Bakery who gave us close to $50 from holding two yard sales." She mentioned that donations for the shelter were being held in two accounts set up by Town Finance Director Tina Collins at Town Hall.

Szepatowski also emphasized that the shelter would be selfsupporting. "The shelter will not be staffed by town employees and will be run without using town money," she said.

Szepatowski concluded the workshop by addressing the council. All were present except for councilman Robert Sutton who was attending a community farm meeting.

"What we are looking for from the Town Council is the promise to lease the old water treatment plant in 2009 when it will be available," Szepatowski said. "If we can prove that we can make the necessary renovations without costing the town a dime, it would be an excellent use of the old building. We are confident that we can raise the money through grants and donations. We are looking for a 10- year lease because grant money is not available if we do not have a fairly lengthy lease," she added.

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