Mayor wants to move toward $800,000 shelter

Mayor wants to move toward $800,000 shelter

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Mayor Charles Lombardi says he now believes the town can build a new animal shelter next to its old one on Smithfield Road for $800,000, far less than the $2 million estimates some advocates have stated.

Lombardi met with North Providence Animal Shelter Committee member Cathy Lanni and others for what he described as a “very productive” meeting last week on how the town might restart discussions on getting a satisfactory shelter built. Those discussions, including on funding, need and square footage, are expected to continue with a planned summit on what the shelter could and should be.

Lombardi says he wants Lanni, Animal Control Officer Ernie Calandra and others to put together their needs for the shelter and then the town can meet with an architect to tell them what they want.

The mayor told The Breeze he expects to use some of the remaining $2 million in the North Providence Police Department’s 2012 Google fund, which is why Chief Arthur Martins is in on discussions.

“I’m hoping that it can be built for $800,000,” he said of the new shelter, which would cover between 5,000 and 6,000 square feet.

The town of Johnston, which shares animal control services with North Providence, has pledged to put $300,000 toward a new shelter, according to Lombardi.

Lanni said this week that her meeting with Lombardi was positive overall. She said she’s happy about the formation of a subcommittee to consider specifics on the shelter and that she’ll be part of it, saying she looks forward to doing all she can “to get this project to move forward in the immediate sense.”

Though Lombardi doesn’t expect planning of the shelter to be a complex process, he said he anticipates those with knowledge of the current shelter’s shortcomings, particularly Calandra and staff members, to understand what needs to change for functionality better than anyone.

For example, he said, staff at the current shelter have made it clear that the current setup for cats doesn’t work on any level. Staff either need to climb on a ladder to reach the high cages or get down on the floor to reach the low ones.

During a Town Council meeting last week, Lombardi told Lanni and the council that he remains committed to building the new shelter, but the cost remains an issue. He explained how he received a visit from representatives from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, but rejected an offer to join up with the organization because it would mean animals in North Providence would have to be brought to an East Providence shelter.

At that meeting, Lanni sounded an optimistic tone, saying she understands Lombardi is seeking the best bang for the buck with the new shelter. But, she said, it also needs to meet specific requirements to be a functional facility for staff and get it in compliance with regulations.

There’s a lot to discuss and much information for everyone to bring to the table, said Lanni. She said she hopes through discussions to find “a great path forward.”

Lanni did not respond to whether she believes $800,000 will be enough to complete construction of the shelter.