Orangetown Supervisor Andy Stewart explained one reason why the efforts to rebuild Hi-Tor Animal Care Center are important during the volunteer group's public meeting Tuesday at Orangetown Town Hall.
"A community is judged in part on how it takes care of its animals," Stewart said. "There has been a lot of concern on the part of the towns and the community about what is happening with Hi-Tor. It is obviously caught up in the county's financial crisis."
Rebuild Hi-Tor Animal Care Center Chair of Fundraising Donald Franchino focused on the positive, such as donations the group has already received.
"We just barely started and we have groups raising funds before we really get it going," Franchino said. "These town meetings are the kickoff."
Tuesday's meeting was the second of five, one in each town in Rockland County, with the group of volunteers explaining the need for a new facility for Hi-Tor, providing updates on their efforts and taking questions from the community. Franchino announced Tuesday night that the next meeting would be in Haverstraw Sept. 11.
"As most of you know, we were facing having to shut down at the end of last month," said Roberta Bangs, chair of the Hi-Tor Board of Directors. "At this point, we know we have enough funds to keep operating probably through the first quarter of next year, but our facility is in a sad state of affairs. The condition of the building is beyond repair at this point. The county's own engineer said it would cost at least $650,000 to repair the current facility, which is badly undersized for what we need."
Franchino, who recently led efforts to rebuild the Highview playground in Nanuet, said he planned to stop fundraising for a while until he toured the current Hi-Tor facility and saw the need.
"I was there five or 10 minutes and I said this cannot be," Franchino said. "A county as rich as we are and we have shelters in Rockland that store lawn mowers that look better."
One focus of the town meetings is to find coordinators of fundraising efforts in those towns. Anne Putko of Piermont volunteered to be one of the coordinators for Orangetown and other residents expressed interest in helping one way or another.
Stewart said the situation at Hi-Tor had been a concern for him for a long time.
"I had been very worried, since taking office in January, about this Hi-Tor issue," Stewart said. "It was moving along, but sooner or later it's going to hit a crisis level. I'm worried what that will mean for our town. I'm so glad to see folks are stepping up. I urge folks to support it in any way they can."
One reason for that concern is that the work of caring for animals without homes would likely fall to the towns if Hi-Tor was not there.
Franchino laid out plans to help keep that from happening, ranging from the production of videos to help spread the word to the recruitment of local companies to help. He also brought some of the donation buckets like those used in the Highview Playground fundraising efforts.
The idea would be to get residents, children with their parents' help or adults, to adopt a business and place a bucket there. That is one area where town coordinators would help by distributing the buckets.
"What we did with Highview was very successful," Franchino said. "From the history with the playground, smaller buckets can get $50 to $100 per week. I'm looking to place 1,000 buckets."
Rebuild Hi-Tor will also include events. Franchino said he hopes to have a dog walk with a dunk tank as well as a three-mile walk/run at Hi-Tor Oct. 28.
The group is also hoping for help in getting the town to agree to allot the land needed for the new facility. They have considered at other sites, including the Rockland Psychiatric Center in Orangeburg, but that would not be available soon enough.
One ongoing fundraiser is Rebuild Hi-Tor . An order form and other information about the efforts to rebuild Hi-Tor can be found at www.RebuildHiTor.org. Through Brick pavers, people can buy a brick to be inscribed with their message to be installed at the new shelter. Other parts of the new facility, such as cages for cats and kennels for dog, will also be available for a similar sale, though those items will cost more.
Donations for the Rebuild effort can be sent to: Hi-Tor Animal Care Center, P.O. Box 913, Nanuet, NY 10954. Phone: 845-215-5020.