In a development that might bring relief to residents dismayed by Maplewood’s recent decision to enter into a full service contract with the Newark Associated Humane Society (AHS), the town is officially moving ahead with forging a plan to share animal control services with South Orange.
Officials from both towns have been discussing the possibility of shared services since the closing of the Jersey Animal Coalition. In such an agreement, South Orange would act as the lead agency with Maplewood contracting with them to provide animal control services, said Mayor Vic DeLuca at Tuesday’s Township Committee meeting.
“It is in Maplewood’s interest to have shared services with South Orange, but it has to work operationally and financially,” said DeLuca, who called it the quickest way for the township to end its current arrangement with AHS. Once a plan is in place, Maplewood officials would evaluate the services being provided by South Orange and decide whether to continue.
Since the closing of the JAC, Maplewood has been contracting with the AHS for its animal control services and sheltering. The contract, approved on January 12, has a 60-day termination clause. The town is paying AHS $41,802.25 annually, paid on a monthly, prorated basis.
Currently, South Orange is drafting an RFP [request for proposals] to find a private vendor to manage animal control, which should be released within the next couple of months. The plan would potentially involve the use of the former JAC building as a shelter to serve both towns, DeLuca said.
Maplewood resident Veronica Peralta called it “great news” and asked the township committee to consider seeking input from residents to evaluate proposals.
Recently, Maplewood let go its animal control officer, Debbie Hadu, amidst protest from some residents. South Orange still has a full-time ACO, Melanie Troncone, and uses various local shelters to house any stray animals picked up.
Linda Eckhardt commended the township committee for their hard work on the issue; however, she said Hadu had been subjected to disrespectful treatment from her superiors, which she called “unacceptable.”
Eckhardt continued, “They were poking at her like she was a wild animal in a cage. It’s no wonder she went nuts on them.”
Meanwhile, Hadu has said she is moving ahead with taking legal action against Maplewood regarding her termination. At last night’s meeting, she publicly asked Township Attorney Roger Desiderio how she could go about filing a tort claim.
During the public health portion of the meeting, Health Officer Robert Roe said he had made an unannounced visit to the AHS and it was “not nearly as bad as some people make it out to be.” He called it cleaner than the JAC had been.
Roe said residents concerned about the welfare of dogs and cats at AHS should consider adopting an animal from the shelter. “If you want to rescue dogs and cats, take them up on their offer,” said Roe. “Don’t just badmouth people,” he said, noting that he had been verbally attacked by some people in the last couple of months.
In a phone interview on Wednesday, South Orange Deputy Administrator Adam Loehner said the township was weighing different options for the former JAC building and was also looking into arrangements with other area shelters. “There are a lot of different ideas on how to use the building,” he said. South Orange officials are seeking the most economical solution to provide “great service to our community members.”
In a shared services arrangement with Maplewood, Troncone would remain as animal control officer and be joined by another, possibly part time, officer. “We want to hold on to Melanie,” Loehner said.
As South Orange moves forward with formulating a plan, township administrators are seeking input and guidance from the Board of Trustees. “We will [also] look to the community for feedback and opinions,” said Loehner. In addition, he said, he will continue to work “very closely” with Maplewood Township Administrator Joseph Manning as the process moves forward.