TORRINGTON — In May, members of the Northwest Hills Council of Governments thought construction on their regional animal control shelter would begin within the year.
But bids for the project, which was designed with a cost of about $1 million, came in much higher, and the COG has decided to apply for funding to make up the difference.
The NWCOG met Dec. 12 and discussed the project, according to Director Rick Lynn.
“We developed a design plan for a new shelter, that would be shared by Torrington, Litchfield and Goshen, and could eventually include other towns,” Lynn said. “Goshen and Litchfield have pledged to participate in the construction, and Silver Petrucelli & Associates of Hamden did the design, which was estimated to cost $1 milllion. Unfortunately, the seven bids we received were much higher than we anticipated, between $1.9 million and $2.7 million.”
Lynn noted that when the requests for proposals was made in spring, construction companies in Connecticut were busy, which would attribute to the high bids. It’s also been four years since the project was first proposed, he said.
“The project was first developed in 2015, so the timeline has something to do with it, too,” he said. “This regional animal control shelter has been a priority for the COG for quite some time, though. We did a feasibility study for it, and found that it was needed.”
The new facility would be built on Bogue Road in Harwinton, just over the Torrington line, where the old shelter now stands. It was built in the early 1960s and doesn’t provide enough space for the cats and dogs that are held there until they can be adopted.
In view of the higher estimated cost, Lynn said the council is applying for a $1 million Regional Performance Incentive Program grant.
“We hope it will be awarded,” he said. “Having that grant will make it easier to build it. We’ll continue to work on this in 2020.”
Until the regional shelter operation was launched in 2013, according to former First Selectman Leo Paul, Litchfield’s animal control officer wasn’t always available to respond to emergency calls from residents.
Under the regional agreement that shares costs, Torrington provides full-time animal control officers seven days a week with shifts running from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays and on weekends from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“Residents are happy to get a response and have an (animal control) officer available,” Paul said in an interview in May.
“With the regional shelter, I don’t get calls about an animal roaming around on a Saturday afternoon,” said Goshen First Selectman Bob Valentine at the time.
Paul pointed to the aging shelter building on Bogue Road as “not very attractive,” and said it didn’t offer protection to the animals sheltered there. “It’s an uncomfortable working environment for the staff, too.”
Funding for the new regional animal shelter was supported by Torrington voters, who approved $1 million for the project at a referendum in November 2018.
A cooperative operation of the shelter began in 2013 when Torrington approved a plan to join with Litchfield and Goshen for the municipal partnership. The three municipalities provide operational costs based on the size of their population. Torrington carries 75.6 percent of the total operational expenses, while Litchfield provides 17.7 percent and 6.7 percent is paid by Goshen.