Council OK’s dog park without scrutiny

Just a couple of hours after a rally of more than 60 people came to Town Hall to push for approval of a 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 been set, and costs for operating and maintaining the park are not known by the council.

“I don’t think what has been presented is enough,” said Kubic. “It needs to be vetted more. Voting for it is irresponsible.”

Before his own no vote, Poisson said, “There are a lot of things missing.”
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 having 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 was at risk of losing a $5,000 grant from Petco if a firm plan for constructing a park was 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 dismay that they were being asked to approve a plan with so many unanswered questions. Tensions rose as the chairman not only expressed how he might vote, but implied that he would accept support from other members to hold off on a vote until the plan was more completely vetted.

(See related story on dog park rally and the mayor’s announcement that land for the park was selected.)

Councilman Craig Budnick, who read the dog park approval motion for consideration, referred to his colleague Poisson with an expletive as Poisson objected to allowing the leaders of the 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 into discussions on formal motions of the council, spoke up on the dog park motion, as he may have sensed the vote was 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 the 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.

One of the speakers at the Town Council public forum that precedes each monthly council meeting, Kristen Cruz, said that a “dog park will bring community to our town, with education and fun that is free and accessible.”

This land adjacent to the Animal Control facility on Beacon Point Road is the approximate location that Mayor John Harkins has designated for a new town dog park. Paula Lockshier photo.

This land adjacent to the Animal Control facility on Beacon Point Road is the approximate location that Mayor John Harkins has designated for a new town dog park. Paula Lockshier photo.

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  • Donna Rae Henault Caporaso

    I really wish I had known about this. I saw nothing in papers about it. I disagree with the area totally. There goes a nice peaceful and quiet area in town……

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