Town officials missed a Nov. 7 deadline to apply for a large grant that would’ve covered much of the cost of entirely revamping the town’s animal shelter.
The Companion Animal Capital Fund, a grant offered through the state Department of Agriculture & Markets, provides up to $500,000 for shelters, like Saugerties’, which serves multiple municipalities.
Adele Zindemann, daughter of shelter founder Marie Post and founder of the new Saugerties Animal Welfare Fund, hopes to raise awareness of this need for funds and amass at least a portion of them from the community.
“The shelter is sick,” said Zindemann. “What happened to us is that the shelter has cancer, I’m not talking about the animals, and it’s like the medical insurance said, ‘Sorry, we don’t cover it.’”
Among the fixes needed are the replacement of a totally defunct septic tank, an outdated HVAC system, porous floors that need to be replaced with a material that’s easier to clean, roof repairs, the establishment of a quarantine room separate from healthy animals and larger dog runs. The plans drawn up for the building, which were made into blueprints by local architect Laura Cassar pro bono, also included solar paneling, an updated bathroom facility for employees and visitors to the shelter, an indoor area for prospective pet owners to meet animals outside of their cages (this is now done exclusively outside) and an office.
Town Supervisor Fred Costello said last week the project would be completed by July 2019. But without the grant, this timeline may no longer be valid.
“We were not able to secure a contractor to do a [cost] estimate for the project in time,” said town grant writer Vernon Benjamin. “There are no other programs like this one, this is the best one. It offered 75 percent funding — I didn’t find anything else that compared to that.”
Costello, though, is optimistic about the possibility of another grant opportunity. “Hopefully [the shelter] won’t have to wait another year,” he said. “There are other grant opportunities out there that we’re going to pursue. This one is attractive because it’s very comprehensive and it would give us the opportunity to correct a whole bunch of deficiencies at once.”
Zindemann and Elly Monfett, the shelter’s manager, said this week the repairs are too dire to wait an entire year.
“I’m going to try to reach out to the communities of Woodstock and to Saugerties, to the businesses, perhaps at a chamber of commerce meeting to make them aware of what’s going on in their township and if they can donate. Hopefully I could get the materials donated, someone could donate their time. It’s not just the townships, we have a couple of people, but we would have to pay for the grant writers,” said Zindemann. “It will be $3,500 here, $2,000 there — piecemeal. … To see that the shelter is just on the bottom of the list, pushed aside — it can’t be. The shelter is going to have what it needs in 2019, regardless of what I have to do.”
The two have plans for a Gofundme initiative, and have even enlisted the help of Woodstocker Julianna Lavin, a filmmaker known for the 1995 film Live Nude Girls. Lavin said that when she first came to the shelter to donate pet supplies, she knew that she needed to help improve the conditions under which its charges were living.
“I was struck by the shelter — it needs updating to meet a modern, humane standard,” said Lavin. “I’ve met so many people around here that drove past and never stepped inside. I think lots of people have no idea how deteriorated it’s gotten. I think that this is a community of animal lovers and kindhearted people, so I’m hopefully that once the public is more aware of the shelters’ desperate need they’ll want to make sure that the animals are in a more modern facility.”
Councilman John Schoonmaker, the shelter’s liaison to the town board, took an optimistic stance on the lost opportunity.
“If we miss this again, that’s just gross negligence on our part,” said Schoonmaker. “As the project went on, the scope grew. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — if we had just gone in for the repairs aspect of it, if we had gotten the grant then we probably wouldn’t be able to apply for it again. I like to be an optimist, so this guarantees that we’ll be able to get a grant that will cover everything that we need done. Because we have a whole year, we can start planning and make sure that all of these elements are in place.”
As of now, a cost estimate on the numerous repairs still hasn’t been carried out. Currently, the shelter has 13 dog runs and 16 cat cages; last year, Monfett said, the shelter adopted out 77 dog and 194 cats last year.