Town inks 50-year deal with NFAWL on Pfiefer building

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | The Pfiefer community center building in Calverton.
The Pfiefer community center building in Calverton. (Credit: Tim Gannon, file)

Plans to move the Riverhead Animal Shelter to the Henry Pfeifer Community Center building in Calverton have become a bit more definitive.

The nonprofit North Fork Animal Welfare League, which operates the town’s shelter on Youngs Avenue, announced it has signed a lease agreement with Riverhead Town for use of the building. 

The nonprofit will lease the center and adjacent land at no cost from Riverhead Town for a 50-year period, so long as NFAWL covers the cost of constructing an indoor kennel area deemed necessary for relocating the shelter, according to the lease agreement signed last Monday, Aug. 4.

NFAWL architect Robert Brenner in June estimated the cost of the kennel building to be between $600,000 and $650,000. It would consist of 21 indoor/outdoor kennels for dogs, and an office for the kennel manager.

Should the town for terminate its service contract with NFAWL within the first 25 years, the town would be responsible for reimbursing the nonprofit the costs of the new kennel. After 25 years, the town would retain ownership of the addition, according to the lease agreement.

The nonprofit organization, which also runs Southold Town’s animal shelter and animal control functions, plans to use a $300,000 bequest it received from the Troxel family of Mattituck to build the new kennel building.

Money raised by resident Denise Lucas and her Riverhead Move the Animal Shelter group, which has been raising money privately through numerous fundraisers to relocate the shelter away from Youngs Avenue landfill, will manage and cover the costs of renovating the existing building, which is on River Road/Grumman Boulevard just south of the Enterprise Park at Calverton site.

NFAWL and Move the Animal Shelter announced a “rigorous fundraising initiative” will be needed in order to make the plan a reality.

Gillian Pultz, NFAWL’s executive director, said “the new location will better meet the needs of the animals in our care.”

The Pfeifer building and the addition would allow for “comprehensive animal care services,” including medical and temperament testing, and an ability to provide behavior modification and enrichment for its animals, Ms. Pultz said.

“Now my dream is finally becoming a reality,” said Ms. Lucas, who started raising money for a new shelter three years ago. “My volunteers and me are so happy our hard work is finally paying off.”

Ms. Lucas said she is looking forward to “a bigger and better place to house and care for the town’s cats and dogs that comes at no cost to the taxpayer.”

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said the new shelter, once built, “will make a significant and positive difference in the life of homeless pets on the East End and will improve the level of experience for adopters, volunteers, and all community visitors.”

The town acquired the Pfeifer Center when it was deeded 2,900 acres in Calverton from the Navy in 1998. Riverhead spent $427,000 to renovate the building, which had been used as a guardhouse, turning it into a community center in 2004, according to prior News-Review coverage. The building has since been used infrequently, housing only the occasional meeting or educational program over the past year, according to a resolution on the lease agreement.

Riverhead Town signed a three-year contract with NFAWL in December 2012, agreeing to pay the organization $223,135 for its services for the first year, with 2 percent bumps for subsequent years, according to the contract.

The nonprofit took over the shelter operations on Youngs Avenue March 1, 2013, leasing it for free from the town. It is responsible for all operational costs.

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