Council approves creating dog park near Animal Control facility

Just a couple of hours after a rally of more than 60 people came to Town Hall to push for approval of a town dog park the Town Council approved the creation of a dog park on property adjacent to the Animal Control facility on Beacon Point Road subject to rules, regulations and legal language to be determined.

The vote at the April 14 monthly Council meeting to approve creation of a dog park was eight in favor and two opposed. The two opposition votes by Council Chairman Joe Kubic and Ordinance Committee Chairman Ken Poisson were because the dog park plan has not proceeded through the normal process of committees, commissions and the Town Attorney’s office. Rules and regulations for the park have not be set, and costs for operating and maintaining the park are not known to the Council.

Kubic and Poisson expressed no opposition to the concept of having a dog park.

After years of talking about possibly establishing a town dog park and of a group of volunteers raising money for such a park there was some urgency for the Town to act, because the Stratford Dog Park Association volunteers are at risk of losing a $5,000 grant from Petco if a firm plan for constructing a park were not set by the end of this month.

Discussion of the motion to create a dog park at the Beacon Point property was largely favorable from the council until Poisson and Kubic spoke up with unhappiness that they were being asked to approve a plan with so many unanswered questions. Tensions rose as the chairman seemed to be expressing not only how he would vote, but, as chairman, that he would accept support from other members to hold off on a vote until the plan was more completely vetted.

Councilman Craig Budnick, who read the motion for consideration, referred to his colleague Poisson with an expletive as Poisson objected to allowing the leaders of Stratford Dog Park Association to speak in reply to a question from the Council, because they are not Stratford residents. Budnick used the pejorative term quietly, almost under his breath, but it was audible to those who were listening carefully. The unrest between the two continued into a post-meeting period, with Budnick eventually apologizing to Poisson.

Mayor John Harkins, who is not a regular voting member of the Council and who normally attends Council meetings without injecting himself in discussions on formal motions of the Council, spoke up on the dog park motion as he may have sensed the vote may have been on its way to being postponed.

Harkins recommended that the Council approve the motion to create a dog park subject to rules and regulations being established by the Town Attorney’s office.

Majority Leader Jim Connor spoke up a couple of times, effectively interrupting the chairman’s comments, and implored Kubic to close discussion and bring the matter to a vote.

Kubic called the vote, voted against the motion, and said, “It’ll come back,” meaning that the issue will come back to Council for approval after rules, regulations, costs and other questions are resolved.

Dog park organizers said that they believe they got enough from the Council last night to convince Petco not to rescind the $5,000 grant.

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