Town renews push to privatize shelter

Riverhead Town has yet again asked private groups to submit proposals to run its municipal animal shelter, a move officials say could save the town money.

A second round of requests for proposals was published in this newspaper on July 29 and in Newsday about the same time. Riverhead Councilman Jim Wooten, the Town Board’s liaison to the shelter, issued a press release Tuesday publicizing the call for bids. “I’m trying to get as many people interested as possible,” he said.

He said the town’s first request for proposals published in May drew only one response. The process was criticized at the time because it gave only an eight-day window to respond and was printed only in the News-Review, so only local groups were likely to see the ad.

“Those were valid complaints,” Mr. Wooten said.

The new deadline for proposals is Sept. 27. As of Wednesday, no new bids had been submitted, according to Town Clerk Diane Wilhelm.

The one response in May came from the Riverhead Shelter Volunteer Program, known as RSVP Inc. That group, which has had volunteers working at the shelter for years, has clashed with town officials and town employee union leaders in the past.

Mr. Wooten said it is the town’s policy not to accept a single bid. He said RSVP plans to submit another proposal to run the shelter. He added that he did not know what the town would do this time if only one proposal is submitted.

“We hope to have some response,” he said.

If the shelter is turned over to a private organization, its budget would be financed mostly through donations, Mr. Wooten said in the release. “It is more likely that the shelter will receive donations to expand and renovate to accommodate animals other than large dogs,” he said. “In addition, more emphasis can be placed on finding adoptive homes.”

The town spent $242,813 on the animal shelter in 2010.

By law, the town is required only to provide animal control services, not a shelter. The town facility on Youngs Avenue houses only adult dogs and not cats, kittens or puppies.

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