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Smithtown moves forward on animal shelter reconstruction

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Smithtown animal shelter is one step closer to a long-awaited renovation of its aging municipal compound. The town awarded a $240,000 design and engineering contract to the Brookhaven firm L.K. McLean Associated and construction could start in late summer on what Deputy Supervisor Tom McCarthy said would be "the newest, most state-of-the-art facility on Long Island." (Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas)

Smithtown is moving forward with long-awaited changes to its aging municipal animal shelter, awarding a $240,000 design and engineering contract to the Brookhaven firm L.K. McLean Associated.

Reconstruction rather than renovation of the facility is the likely course, town engineer Mark Riley said at a Town Board work session Tuesday, citing a new New York State energy code that would make renovations impractical.

The town’s 2016-2020 capital plan included $2.4 million for the project, and the Town Board is prepared to borrow $850,000 for work in 2017.

Construction could start in late summer on what Deputy Supervisor Tom McCarthy said would be “the newest, most state-of-the-art facility on Long Island.” McLean’s proposal allots 10 months for the work, which is to be completed while the shelter remains operating.

The proposal, a preliminary document with few details, calls for thoroughly modernizing the facility, using design changes to enhance the health and comfort of the animals living there.

For example, the kennels where dogs spend much of their time should be built and laid out to offer a “safe area” with limited views of other animals to reduce dogs’ stress, it says. Drains should be relocated to allow for more efficient cleaning. Shelters require a much higher airflow than typical office buildings, the proposal says, and a specially designed HVAC system is needed to limit airborne diseases.

Smithtown’s Town Board awarded the McLean contract in December. McLean will work with the Norwich, Connecticut-based animal facility design specialist Design Learned, which has consulted or designed municipal shelters locally, including Babylon, Brookhaven and Southold.

Smithtown shelter employees said they were heartened by the move.

“We do the best we can with what we have,” animal control officer Deborah Buzard said on a recent tour of the shelter.

Three animal control officers, support staff and a cat share a front office the size of a bathroom at the shelter. The former office of the shelter supervisor, converted to a “meet and greet” room for dogs and prospective adoptive families, is now a temporary home for a post-surgery boxer mix named Hennessy and a bull python snake.

Recently arrived cats are quarantined in cages in hallways, in a former kitchen and in a former shower.

Because of tight space at the shelter, some employees keep litters of kittens at home, Buzard said.

“We’re overcrowded. There’s just so much,” she said.

Fire alarms at the shelter do not connect to a central station, leaving animals vulnerable after hours, she said.

A 2015 engineering report by Design Learned recommended major renovations to bring the building “to animal care industry norms.”

Animal advocate Marie Pascale said she applauded the move toward reconstruction, but was skeptical after what she said were years of delays.

“Seeing is believing,” she said.

Shelter wish list

Smithtown Animal Shelter Supervisor Susan Hansen’s wish list for a new shelter:

  • Improved ventilation system
  • New layout with isolation areas for sick animals
  • More square footage

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