A site plan for West Hartford’s new Animal Control facility has been shared with the Town Council’s Public Works, Facilities, and Sustainability Committee.
By Ronni Newton
Bob Palmer, West Hartford’s director of Plant and Facilities Services, shared both the site plan and floor plan for West Hartford’s new Animal Control facility at the Town Council’s Public Works, Facilities, and Sustainability Committee on Feb. 1, and said the new building will be much larger – roughly five times larger – and will meet all of the state’s new regulations for municipal animal control facilities.
The need for a new West Hartford Animal Control facility has been talked about for years, and Palmer has regularly been sharing updates on the progress of the project with the Public Works, Facilities, and Sustainability Committee. While initial plans, announced in early 2022, were in the works to rebuild on the same site – although further back from the road – a brand new facility will instead be constructed just up the street at the corner of Brixton Street and Oakwood Avenue, on one of two parcels that the town purchased in the fall of 2022.
The plans that were drawn up a few years ago to rebuild on Brixton Street were used in the design of the site plan that Palmer shared on Thursday. The orientation has been changed somewhat, and the facility will be larger than what would have been built on the existing 36 Brixton Street site, but “it fits pretty well,” Palmer said.
The parcel where Animal Control is currently located – at the end of Brixton Street, across from the Fire Department’s training tower – is just under a half acre. The new building will be on a property that is just under an acre, which allows more space to build a bigger facility. The current cinder block structure, built in 1971, is roughly 1,000 square feet, and the new facility will be roughly 5,500 square feet.
Cunningham Supply’s showroom, warehouse, and a garage currently occupy the site, which has an address of 705 Oakwood Avenue, and there is some environmental remediation that must be completed along with the demolition of the main building. Lead paint and asbestos are the main contaminants – as expected in a building that was constructed in the 1940s. There was also some oil leakage on the property that was identified in a Phase 1 environmental study the town commissioned prior to purchasing both 705 Oakwood Avenue and the adjoining property at 12 Brixton Street in 2022.
Palmer described the design of the new facility, which he said can accommodate a lot of animals, and shared preliminary floor plans. It will include a formal lobby with ADA-compliant restrooms, a kitchen for preparing food for the animals – which is requirement of the state, and 10 dog kennels with indoor and outdoor space. There will be space for proper food storage separate from the kitchen, an office, and plenty of space for general storage.
Animal Control’s current building has heating, but fans are the only source of cooling. The new facility will have a complete HVAC system with air conditioning, Palmer said.
In addition, there will be three isolation pens for dogs that will include indoor and outdoor areas.
The facility will have a cattery that will include 15-16 cages for housing cats, and there will also be an isolation area for cats. A secure drop-off area will be located on the side of the building farthest from Brixton Street and will have separate entrances for dogs and cats.
Palmer also said the facility will include a very large multipurpose room – with an entrance facing Brixton Street – where the public can meet and interact with animals that become available for adoption.
Town Manager Rick Ledwith told We-Ha.com on Friday that the new facility should be completed and opened in 2025. Remediation and demolition will be taking place this spring, and construction should begin in late summer or early fall, he said.
While there will be plenty of space, the intent is not for the animals brought to the facility to remain for a long stay, Ledwith said. A report shared by West Hartford Police indicated that four dogs and six cats were impounded in December. One animal was redeemed by its owner, and five were adopted out during the month, either to a rescue organization or a new home.
Animal Control is a division of the West Hartford Police Department, and Ledwith said the police, as well as Animal Control officers, provided input as plans for the new facility were being developed.
“There is one component of the existing structure that we are looking to save,” Palmer said Thursday. The former Cunningham Supply property also had a two-bay garage on the premises, and that looks to be a good fit for storage of the Police Department’s new mobile operations center, which is the size of an RV. It will not be connected to the Animal Control facility.
There is also a roughly 10,000-square-foot warehouse on the 12 Brixton Street Street parcel that is being considered for a police and fire department training facility, Palmer said. There have been ongoing surveys of existing facilities as part of a formal Public Safety Facilities Assessment the town has been working on, and after “initial conversations with both police and fire,” they think it’s a good idea, Palmer said.
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