Wallingford mayor proceeding with animal shelter renovations plan

WALLINGFORD — Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. has signed off on the installation of new air conditioning and other improvements to the animal control office.

The Public Works and Purchasing departments are working together to finalize the bid specifications and work can begin after a qualified bidder is accepted, Dickinson said. 

“We would not be going out to bid on this if we weren’t going to go forward with the project,” Dickinson said.

According to a memo dated Aug. 27 from new Animal Control Office Director Mitch Gibbs, Public Works officials were due to have the bid specifications ready for processing by the Purchasing Department on Sept. 3. Dickinson said he would follow Gibbs’ recommendation contained in memos written on Aug. 11 and Aug. 27 advising the air handling and ceiling work.

The lack of shelter AC became a political issue in Wallingford when temperatures reached close to 100 degrees in late June. Several Democratic town councilors said during a June 23 meeting amid a summer heat wave that the uncooled air, and chronic staff shortages, were examples of Republican Dickinson's indifferent managerial style.

After Dickinson responded that he had never been approached about he lack of cool air in the shelter kennels - and that plenty of people in town lack air conditioning - Democratic mayoral challenger Riley O'Connell released a 2018 memo to Dickinson from Gibbs' predecessor, Katie Ehlers, requesting AC for the kennels. In response, Dickinson said that he vaguely recalled Ehlers communicating in 2018 or 2019 that she "felt it was too warm" in the office.

This week, O’Connell said that at an Aug. 17 council meeting the mayor told the public he would have Gibbs’ report very shortly.

“When in fact the completed memo had been sitting on the mayor’s desk for an entire week already,” O’Connell said, referring to the Aug. 11 memo from Gibbs. 

Dickinson stood by his actions at the Aug. 17 council meeting. The Aug. 11 memo, he said, lacked input from Public Works, which is the department responsible for doing or overseeing the engineering and/or actual renovations of town buildings. The Aug. 27 memo, which he requested, contained that information.

“Two departments are involved in this and it is essential that we hear from both departments on this project. Animal control and Public Works are working together on this and that’s exactly what needs to happen with this,” he said.

According to the Public Works review of the facility, at 5 Pent Road, the heating system also needs replacement and a lower ceiling will help improve airflow and reduce the accumulation of heat in the building during summer months. The office had air conditioning, but the kennels lacked it. The total cost of the work hasn’t been released, but the new AC system, which would serve the offices and kennel, would cost $20,000, according to Gibbs’ memos.

nsambides@record-journal.com203-317-2279Twitter: @JrSambides

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