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Regional dog kennel, economic progress conflict in Montague

TURNERS FALLS — The 18-month-old regional dog kennel has a two-year lease on life in Montague, but its days there are numbered.

The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office operates the kennel in a renovated portion of a Highway Department garage at the end of Sandy Lane, a kennel used by Montague and 13 other subscribing towns to store lost, unwanted or confiscated dogs.

The Sheriff’s Office wants the building’s remaining garage bay to expand the dog kennel; the Montague Highway Department wants it to keep an expensive chipper dry; and the town of Montague plans to bulldoze the whole building within five years either way.

The Board of Selectmen has extended the Sheriff’s Office’s lease until Dec. 31, 2015, after Sheriff Christopher Donelan asked for a time commitment from the town so his office can weigh investment in expansion, and try to work something out with the Highway Department.

Shelter director Leslee Colucci said she hoped to convert the un-renovated bay into space for veterinary visits and processing incoming dogs, rather than upsetting the penned dogs.

Colucci said 300 dogs have come through the kennel since it opened, with 125 adopted and the rest reunited with their owners.

Colucci, a sheriff’s deputy and former animal control officer, runs the shelter with help from 36 volunteers. Donelan called that number a measure of the program’s success and popularity.

“From our perspective, it has been more successful than we ever imagined, to the point of taking up more of my budget than I ever imagined,” Donelan said.

Conflicting with the kennel program are the storage needs of the space-strapped Highway Department and the town’s plans to build an industrial park on the site.

“This is good and bad news for me,” said Police Chief Charles “Chip” Dodge III. Dodge said having the kennel in town has been very convenient for his department, but they will follow wherever the kennel eventually moves.

“I would like to see the kennel stay in town as long as I can, but on the other hand I don’t want to halt progress,” he said.

More space for the highway department was originally in the plans for the Turnpike Road Industrial Park, but Town Administrator Frank Abbondanzio said that project has been moved to the Highway Department land off Avenue A.

Wildlife restrictions have pared what was originally meant to be a 90-acre industrial park down to 35 acres, Abbodanzio said, now in the final planning stages with a 1-to-5-year projection for construction.

“I think it would be misleading and unfair to make a commitment we cannot keep in the future,” Abbondanzio said.

Money has yet to be secured and committing to time restrictions might also hurt the project’s viability in competitive applications, he said. The kennel doesn’t fit into the industrial park plans, situated on one of the now relatively few viable industrial lots.

Donelan, who initiated and staffs the kennel, said he realized going into the agreement that the location would eventually be swallowed by the park but didn’t expect that to happen soon.

Abbondanzio said he didn’t expect a ground-breaking inside three years, and based on that projection the selectmen voted a two-year extension of the existing contract, with no reference to expansion.

Highway foreman Dick Clough said he needs the space to store a $50,000 chipper that won’t fit elsewhere, and for access to an electrical panel necessary to control town fuel pumps in an emergency.

Donelan said the main purpose of his visit was to feel out the board and decide whether to continue considering expansion or begin to look for a new home immediately, and this office would now sit down with the Highway Department and discuss how to move forward.

You can reach Chris Curtis at: ccurtis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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