The Riverhead Town Board voted unanimously Tuesday to renew its contract with the North Fork Animal Welfare League to manage the town’s animal shelter for three more years.
The town initially hired NFAWL to a three-year contract to run the shelter in early 2013 and paid them $223,135 for the first year, while increasing that amount by two percent for each of the next two years.
The new contract pays NFAWL a base amount of $233,135 for the first year, $238,135 for the second year and $243,135 for the third year, with the years running from March 1 to the end of February each year.
Prior to NFAWL, the town used its own employees to run the Youngs Avenue shelter, which was a source of controversy for much of that time.
At Tuesday’s Town Board meeting, Jamesport resident Ethel Sussman asked the board to delay the vote on the NFAWL contract to a night meeting so more people can speak. The town board rejected the request.
“What is the process by which the current operator’s performance was evaluated?” Ms. Sussman asked.
Supervisor Sean Walter said that was a “softball question.”
“For the first three years I was on the board, there were nothing but complaints about the animal shelter,” he said. “In the three years (since NFAWL has run the shelter), we’ve heard no complaints.”
Mr. Walter said that when the town shelter brought dogs to Town Board meetings to try and get people to adopt them, he used to be a little afraid to pet some of the dogs brought in before NFAWL took over. Now, he says, the dogs are well trained.
Councilman Tim Hubbard said he visited the shelter and was very impressed. He recalled when he was a town police officer, they would often have to chain stray dogs to the gate of the animal shelter because there was no one working there.
“The dogs are taken care of much better now,” Mr. Hubbard said.
Ms. Sussman asked if any other operators were considered.
Mr. Walter said the town did seek proposals to run the shelter three years ago, and found NFAWL, which has run the Southold Town shelter since 1980, to be “very qualified.” He said the town felt another group that responded, RSVP, was not qualified to run the shelter.
The NFAWL contract requires the organization to keep the shelter open to the public at least 36 hours per week, and states that staff must be available seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. to provide care for animals at the shelter and to accept animals to the shelter.