New home in sight for town shelter dogs

Adonis, 8 months old, in a pen near the front gate of the Riverhead Town Animal Shelter, which is currently located on Youngs Avenue. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)
Adonis, 8 months old, in a pen near the front gate of the Riverhead Town Animal Shelter, which is currently located on Youngs Avenue. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Mr. Dunleavy’s vote came as a surprise to some, since he’d said previously that he felt the town should wait to see what it could get from selling the Pfeifer building.

But on Friday, he said he’s now thrown his support behind the plan.

Mr. Dunleavy attributed his change of heart to the $300,000 that awaits NFAWL through a bequest from the Troxel family of Mattituck. That bequest requires that the funds be used for a new animal care facility — a pivotal part of the relocation plan.

NFAWL, which is under contract to run the town’s shelter, plans to use the Troxel money to build a new kennel at the EPCAL site. Money raised by Riverhead Move the Animal Shelter can be used to renovate the Pfeifer building, officials said.

Mr. Dunleavy pointed out that the town wouldn’t have to spend a dime to facilitate the move and cautioned that if the funds aren’t used as specified, they could be directed to a project outside Riverhead.

“From the beginning, they thought they were going to be there,” he said. “I don’t want them to lose the money. I’d rather them get it, let them use the Pfeifer center, and see what happens.”

Along with Mr. Dunleavy, Mr. Wooten and Mr. Walter said they favor the plan to move the shelter, noting that help from the nonprofits means the town won’t have to pay much for the renovation and construction.

They also feel that because the Pfeifer building lies within the boundaries of the state’s Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act, which restricts what can be done on the property, there won’t be much interest among buyers.

Ms. Giglio said she favors building a new shelter on land behind the dog park at EPCAL. She objected to the fact that the board never discussed the resolution at its work session last Thursday — something Mr. Walter said was an oversight.

Mr. Gabrielsen said he thinks buyers will be interested in purchasing the Pfeifer center if the town succeeds in establishing an energy park at EPCAL, as he has proposed.

He believes the town could get as much as $1 million for the building from an energy company seeking office space at EPCAL.

Ms. Lucas said her group will pay to renovate the building to create room for stray cats, a spay and neuter clinic and grooming area and some outdoor pens and runs for the dogs. She also said it will spruce up the building, which would still be town-owned.

Gillian Wood-Pultz, executive director of NFAWL, said Wednesday that she is “hopeful” about the plan following Tuesday’s vote. The plan has been for NFAWL to build a new kennel and for the town to repurpose the Pfeifer center for administrative offices, she said.

The town turned operation of the shelter over to NFAWL in March 2013, ending years of controversy over the town’s handling of it. Mr. Walter said he hopes animal control will never come under town jurisdiction again.

“I couldn’t be happier with the job NFAWL is doing,” he said Friday. “They have done such a wonderful job. They have turned our dog pound into a magnificent animal shelter. I can’t say enough good things about NFAWL.”

The town acquired the Pfeifer center in 1998 when it received the 2,900 acres in Calverton from the U.S. Navy. The building had been a guardhouse when Grumman leased the land from the Navy.

The town spent $427,000 from the town’s parks and recreation fund to renovate the building in 2004 for use as a community center and is required to replenish the recreation fund account if it’s ever sold, Mr. Gabrielsen said. Supporters of the shelter relocation plan have said that if the current animal shelter is sold, proceeds from that sale could be given back to the parks and rec budget.

The Pfeifer building is infrequently used, officials said. It is used for six months in the summer for recreation programs and twice a year by a committee dealing with the cleanup of pollution on property at EPCAL that remains from the Navy’s use of the land.

Mr. Walter said the town will know whether the new facility can actually be built at the Pfeifer site long before it’s ready to start building. He said the work can’t begin until fall, when the recreation program is done. In the meantime, the town will need to obtain state permits for the project, he said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Councilman Gabrielsen preferred to use the Pfeifer site for the town’s recreation department, when he instead prefers to sell or lease the property, using those funds for the town’s rec programs.