Bucksport voters may be asked later this year whether to approve construction of a new town-owned animal shelter.
The town has operated its own animal shelter, with the support of surrounding towns, for more than 30 years, but the current shelter is now considered insufficient, according to Bucksport Town Manager Susan Lessard.
“Its current location behind the transfer station isn’t ideal,” Lessard said.
The only access to the shelter, which is run by the town’s Department of Public Safety, is through the transfer station, which is not open every day. Also, noise generated by dogs at the shelter disturbs residents at Silver Lake Estates, a retirement community next door, she said.
The shelter lacks storage space, designated quarantine rooms, a bathroom and laundry facilities. It also has gotten busier in recent years, prompting the town to make its animal control officer a full-time position last summer, Lessard said.
The town’s animal control officer, Allyson Corriveau-Moore, has a part-time assistant, she said.
If town officials decide that building a new shelter is the best option, voters likely will be asked to approve the capital expenditure before the project moves forward, Lessard said. The town charter requires that voters approve any capital expenditure of $300,000 or more.
And with the recent escalation of the cost of construction materials, any new shelter is almost guaranteed to cost more than that.
“I can’t imagine how such a facility would come in under $300,000,” Lessard said.
Every municipality in Maine is required by state law to have a designated licensed animal shelter where it can take stray animals, though most towns and cities contract with private shelters to provide this service, Lessard said. Eleven towns in Hancock, Waldo and Penobscot counties pay Bucksport to take in stray domesticated animals.
The shelter has been well-supported by local residents who volunteer and adopt animals, Lessard said. More than half of the animals taken in are caught in Bucksport.
Bucksport built its existing shelter for $3,000 in 1984, when it was collecting ample annual property tax revenue from the now-defunct Verso paper mill. Minor upgrades were made to the shelter in 1996 and 2011.
Lessard said the town’s infrastructure committee has been considering preliminary layout designs for a new building. It’s also been considering location — whether the town should rebuild in the current spot or build a shelter half a mile closer to town on Central Street, behind the town’s public works building. If the town rebuilds at the transfer station, it could install better sound-proofing measures, such as a solid fence, to reduce noise heard next door.
The committee also is mulling whether to recommend building a recreational dog park at the public works property.
Plans have been in the works for at least a year, Lessard said. The town’s infrastructure committee likely will make a recommendation to the Town Council in the coming weeks.
“We’ve danced with this subject for a while,” Lessard said.
Correction: An earlier version of this story cited the wrong year for when the shelter was originally built.