February 1, 2016 11:58AM
By DALE P. FAULKNER
Sun Staff Writer
WESTERLY — A local animal advocacy group is asking the town to follow through on its promise to help build a dog park at the Santo Algiere Conservation Area on Larry Hirsch Way.
“This needs to be put to bed ... I’m hopeful that I can depend on your continued support to make sure this thing keeps traction,” said Howard Thorp, president of the Stand Up for Animals board of directors, Wednesday night while speaking to the Town Council.
Thorp gave a history of the much-delayed project, saying completion of the facility had once been set for the end of 2013. The park will be called the Bruce Ladd Memorial Dog Park, named after the SUFA benefactor who died in 2009 and left money in his will to be used toward construction of the park.
SUFA chose the Santo Algiere Conservation Area as the site for the park because of its proximity to the animal shelter the group opened in 2009 and because Ladd specified that the dog park be available for use by shelter dogs.
The dog park will also function as the third and final phase of a state-mandated remediation plan for the former town landfill site. In 2009, SUFA and the town agreed to fund a site plan and remediation-requirements investigation. Each party contributed $10,000 toward the investigation.
In 2012 SUFA agreed to contribute up to an additional $210,000 for the dog park project. In March of 2013 the group and the town entered into a contract with Cherenzia Associates for design and initial site work for $72,000. SUFA initially paid $17,000 toward the contract with Cherenzia and later contributed an additional $5,000.
In April 2013 SUFA agreed to spend up to $100,000 to complete the landfill remediation. At the same time the group accepted 5,000 cubic yards of fill material that had been stockpiled by the town as part of the cleanup effort following Superstorm Sandy. The fill was used at the dog park site as part of the remediation effort, saving the town an estimated $60,000 that would have been spent to truck the material to the state landfill in Johnston, Thorp said.
Overall, to date, SUFA has spent $212,000 on the dog park, according to Thorp.
Plans call for three separate areas at the dog park: one for large dogs, one for small dogs, and one for shelter dogs. Each area would be fenced and the entire area would be encircled by a stone-dust walking path.
Council President Christopher Duhamel complimented SUFA for providing a service to the town, both by contributing toward the cost of the park and for assisting with the landfill remediation.
Town Manager Michelle Buck, a dog owner, said the park would provide a “tremendous asset to the community” and would benefit both dogs and their owners by providing a new way for residents to socialize with each other. Buck sympathized with SUFA’s desire to get the park completed.
“They have a right to say ‘When is this going to get done?’ ” Buck said.
Councilor Philip Overton asked why the project had been delayed for so long. Buck said Superstorm Sandy, which redirected the focus of town staff, was to blame for much of the delay.
A pre-bid conference for the park was conducted Wednesday. An earlier bid request garnered no responses in the fall. Buck said the deadline in the original bid announcement might have been unclear, possibly causing the dearth of responses.
Buck declined to estimate the cost of constructing the park because she did not want to influence the bid process.
SUFA raised $2.8 million in private funds to build the animal shelter.
Councilor Jean Gagnier recused himself the council’s discussion because his wife works for SUFA.