Officials considering options on animal shelter

Officials considering options on animal shelter

North Providence and Lincoln both courting Smithfield for regional partnership

Officials from multiple communities are now in talks with Smithfield town officials about potentially partnering on operations of a regional animal shelter.

North Providence Mayor Charles Lombardi says he’s hoping new Smithfield Town Manager Randy Rossi chooses to join North Providence and Johnston on a planned tri-community shelter in his town, on Smithfield Road.

Meanwhile, Cumberland Mayor Bill Murray and Lincoln Town Administrator Joe Almond are courting Rossi to be part of a three-community shelter in Lincoln, where officials are planning a major expansion and renovation of the existing facility on Wellington Road.

Rossi confirmed this week that Smithfield officials “are in discussions with both collaborative efforts,” but said no decision has been made yet.

“We are currently looking over the finances, location, operations and overall review of the two projects,” he said. “They are two great options with great partners to work with.”

Murray, during a Town Council meeting last week, told council members that officials are moving slowly on needed repairs to the Cumberland shelter because of a possible future partnership with Lincoln.

“It’s going to be, in Lincoln, a very regional-type operation,” he said.

Murray said he and Almond are pursuing a regionalized shelter in part because of a host of new Rhode Island regulations for shelters. For example, where wires between dog runs were previously acceptable, new rules require full cement between the runs, he said.

Volunteers at the Cumberland shelter would likely be merged into the Lincoln shelter, said Murray.

Lombardi said Monday that he’s aware of Lincoln’s interest in luring Smithfield, but said he believes a tri-town partnership with North Providence and Johnston is the best option for the neighboring community.

“We think we have the best situation for them,” he said, noting that Smithfield is “only about 200 feet away.”

If Smithfield chooses to partner with Lincoln and Cumberland, “that’s OK,” said Lombardi.

The Breeze reported last week that new North Providence Police Chief David Tikoian had frozen spending of his department’s 2012 winnings from a court settlement with Google, putting at least a temporary halt on development of a new animal shelter using those funds.

According to Tikoian, there’s only about $30 million remaining in the Google fund, about half of the $60 million won by the department for its participation in an investigation of the search giant’s online advertising practices, and an estimated cost of $25 million to $28 million for a new public safety complex doesn’t leave much wiggle room for project overruns.

Members of an animal shelter advisory board had previously estimated the cost of a new animal shelter to be about $1 million, but Lombardi said this week he expects the price to be closer to the $600,000 to $700,000 range.

“We don’t need the Taj Mahal of animal shelters,” he said.

Though the Google money likely won’t be used on the planned shelter, he said, he still intends for it to be built.

Lombardi estimated that each of the three partners in the animal shelter would put between $200,000 and $250,000 into the shelter.