Haverhill Councilors Want Inspectors to Weigh In on Conditions at City Animal Shelter

Haverhill City Councilor Timothy J. Jordan. (WHAV News file photograph by Jay Saulnier.)

Haverhill city councilors want to know if rat-infested working conditions would bring the wrath of city health inspectors.

While acknowledging difficult finances ahead, they nevertheless said this week a new city animal shelter is a priority and believe inspectors would agree. Mayor James J. Fiorentini has since told WHAV spending $1.5 million to replace what used to be called the “dog pound” is too much this year when patching will work for now.

“We’re going to have a severe budget crisis next year and we need to focus on the effects of that. We ought to make that building safe for right now—and we’re doing that—and then we need to take a look at all of our capital projects and see which ones we can afford to go to,” Fiorentini said.

Councilor Timothy J. Jordan said the building was deemed beyond salvageable four years ago but, although design bids went out, nothing ever came of it.

“There are several visible holes in the building. You can just see them. I met the animal control officers, Michelle and Brad. They shared some really horrific stories that on several occasions having rats crawling around their feet while they’re working, snakes crawling around on other occasions. On one occasion there was even having a live rat drop from the ceiling onto Michelle’s desk while working. I just think that the reality is that if any employee of a private company had conditions at their work like this and shared them and our building inspector were to go out there, they would be shut down,” Jordan said.

Council President Melinda E. Barrett told WHAV the price tag may seem high, but it also includes improvements to a fuel depot and roadwork as well as building materials that are rat proof.

Jordan, joined by Councilors Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien and Michael S. McGonagle, said he realizes costs have gone up, but called the current arrangement reprehensible.

O’Brien asked about converting another city-owned building into a shelter, but mayoral Chief of Staff Allison Heartquist countered such a building must be away from residences.

Councilor William J. Macek also endorsed moving forward, pointing out construction costs will only go up. He added, now is the right time to use borrow.

“The Fed lowered money down to zero percent a few weeks ago so we’re going to be borrowing bond money which is cheap, cheap, cheap and a year from now, I believe we’ll probably not be at the same zero rate and money will start to cost more,” said Macek

The item returns for discussion Tuesday.

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