Controversial negotiations lie ahead as Rockland Green aims to take over animal sanctuary on January 1

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County Exec Ed Day says the county’s involvement with the animal shelter ends Dec. 31, but will not hand over the shelter to Rockland Green unless the authority has a contract with a qualified operator

By Tina Traster

Rockland Green hopes to resume operations of Hi-Tor Animal Shelter in Pomona on January 1, but can only do so if it has an agreement with Hi-Tor Animal Shelter or another qualified operator.

Hi-Tor’s board and Rockland Green (the county’s former solid waste management authority) have begun negotiations, but it’s unclear whether the two sides can reach terms on funding for the shelter and boundaries of power. Hi-Tor is seeking more than $1.3 million in annual fees from Rockland Green, which effectively acts as a consortium of the five city supervisors who have a legal duty to provide animal shelter services, compared to the approximately 333 $000 that the cities paid. annually for five years under an intermunicipal contract between the municipalities and the department.

“We don’t hand over the keys to Rockland Green if they haven’t come to an agreement,” Ed Day said.

There is a perceived urgency on the part of Hi-Tor board members to negotiate with Rockland Green because the county has signaled it is divesting itself of oversight of the animal shelter in the new year. The Hi-Tor board, which oversees operations and staff at the shelter, is asking Rockland Green for a two-year contract, but what remains unclear is what supervisory, policy or hiring powers Rockland Green expects to demand because they’ve been vague. with board members to date, and have not yet submitted a draft contract to Hi-Tor for review.

Additionally, Rockland Green told the Hi-Tor board that the authority would bill the county, but County Manager Ed Day said that made no sense.

“The five supervisors would like the Solid Waste Management Authority to operate the current animal shelter and provide animal management services,” Ed Day said. “They also want Hi-Tor to be the entity that does this for them, ensuring Hi-Tor’s survival as an entity. This choice of city supervisors severs the county’s involvement when our agreement with Hi-Tor expires on December 31, 2022.”

Hi-Tor’s intermunicipal contract with the county expires Dec. 31. Council members feel they have no choice but to negotiate with Rockland Green and fear that if they do not they will be evicted from the building where they have operated the refuge for 50 years. Several members of the board of directors say they have received an ultimatum: negotiate or the contract is finished.

However, Day says he doesn’t understand why they think that’s true.

“We don’t hand over the keys to Rockland Green if they haven’t come to an agreement,” Day said. “On January 1, we will take measures that guarantee the best interests of animals. We won’t let them suffer because leaders can’t make decisions.

Hi-Tor board members feel pressured to negotiate with an entity that has essentially weakened the organization over the past year and made it known that it plans to build its own shelter which will be operated by Hudson Valley Humane. Company, according to Rockland Green Chairman Howard Phillips, who is also a municipal supervisor for the town of Haverstraw.

The Hi-Tor board has known for some time that Rockland Green is looking to buy a warehouse in Haverstraw to renovate for a new shelter. But the council had believed they would stay in the Pomona facility and continue to run the shelter until a new one was built.

RCBJ spoke to a handful of board members in separate interviews; all said they wanted to remain anonymous.

No one on Hi-Tor’s board of directors thinks this new marriage is meant to last. Phillips has publicly stated on several occasions that he expects the Hudson Valley Humane Society to operate a new shelter once it is built.

Last week, Ramapo supervisor Michael Specht on his weekly radio show WRCR gave his thoughts on new names for the animal sanctuary.

“We are used,” said a board member. “We are a reserved space. Once they are established, we are nothing. We may be two years old. Maybe not. But it’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when.

In meetings over the past few days, board members said Rockland Green’s general manager, Jerry Damiani, told them that Rockland Green wanted to “work together” and “partner with the shelter” and help make of the refuge a better place. He also told council members that Rockland Green would step in on Jan. 1 to operate the refuge as if it were a done deal, according to several council members.

But board members say no specifics have been made clear, and they feel like they’re being told to sleep with the enemy.

“These players have spent a year undermining Debbie, causing massive damage to the shelter, undermining our volunteers and our donor base,” said a board member who asked not to be named. “The donations are down the toilet because of the lawsuit and all the things some officials have said publicly. And now we’re thrown into bed with them? It’s crazy.

Criminal charges brought against Board Chair Debbie DiBernardo by Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Walsh were dropped on the eve of trial by prosecutors two weeks ago. The case of the “kitten” Hi-Tor accusing the president of the animal shelter of providing false information to the county has left many wondering how such a case could rise to the level of a criminal indictment.

But over the course of nearly a year, at least two city officials, including Clarkstown City Supervisor George Hoehmann and Phillips, have spoken repeatedly about the “criminal investigation” and the failings of the shelter, though neither had sat down with board officials. review the status of the operation, according to board members.

Rockland Green set their sights on Hi-Tor over a year ago. Initially, he sought approval from the Rockland County Legislature to amend his charter to include animal management. Then, and at many stages, officials and taxpayers wanted to understand Rockland Green’s plan, but the public authority never provided a single specific document outlining in detail how it would run a shelter, nor presented a plan of action. nor was it clear how the finances would work.

RCBJ outwitted Rockland Green for any information regarding finding a shelter location, but was blocked.

Earlier this year, plans to build a new shelter were scuttled by the Rockland County Legislature when it cast a vote on funding. Afterwards, Phillips said Rockland Green was in active negotiations and had two pending appraisals at 427 Beach Road in Haverstraw, a custom-built warehouse that’s on the market for $4.2 million.

Hi-Tor board members demand answers before signing a contract.

“We asked ‘What is your role? and we haven’t had any answers,” a board member said. “We don’t move forward until we have answers. Rockland Green says he wants a good faith co-op deal, but where’s the plan? They don’t have a say together.

For the past five years, Hi-Tor has contracted with the county, which in turn has collected royalties from cities to support the shelter. Orangetown supervisor Teresa Kenny pulled out of a five-year contract with the county a few years ago and entered into contracts with the Hudson Valley Humane Society for canine services. The contract paid Hi-Tor approximately $330,000 per year from the cities; the shelter has relied on donors to keep its annual financial obligations of nearly $1 million afloat.

But now, with declining donations, skyrocketing costs and salary increases, the council plans to ask Rockland Green to fund the shelter at around $1.3 million a year, reflecting its true cost of running. . The board is asking for a two-year commitment.

It is unclear whether Rockland Green will accept the $1.3 million funding. What is also unclear is where the money will come from because council members have not received any clarification on these issues. For the past five years, cities have included a line item in their annual budgets for Hi-Tor. For example, Clarkstown paid $111,000 per year for hosting services. Haverstraw was paying less than $40,000 a year. It is unclear how Rockland Green will pay for the operation and who will be taxed and how to cover the additional costs.

Hi-Tor board members say that despite asking questions, they are unsure whether Rockland Green intends to insert itself into day-to-day operations, policy decisions or hiring.

“The board is scrambling to figure out what to do,” one board member said.

Separately, Rockland County Legislator Charles Falciglia, who joined the council last month, has resigned.

RCBJ contacted Damiani from Rockland Green for comment, but he did not return our email. Rockland Green will hold its next public meeting on November 17 at 5 p.m. The Authority usually meets at City Hall in the City of Clarkstown, but those wishing to attend should check the meeting location.

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