GREENFIELD — The relocation of Potts Ditch has been an ongoing inconvenience for many local residents, but one area organization is feeling the effects of the construction in an unusual way.
The Hancock County Humane Society, located off U.S. 40 in downtown Greenfield, is situated just a few yards away from where construction crews have been jackhammering and digging for the past week as the project moved into a stage that closed part of Main Street.
Shelter volunteers say the persistent noise is beginning to take a toll on the dozens of cats housed there, and work has limited access to the building for both volunteers and prospective customers.
The effort to relocate Potts Ditch, a waterway that runs underground when it reaches the downtown district, has been underway since last fall. What city officials have called a necessary evil to alleviate the ditch’s flooding problems has drawn criticism from residents and business owners affected by the resultant road closures. The humane society’s access issues are not unusual, but volunteers there say the difficulty caring for the animals that live in the shelter is especially disconcerting.
“It’s been pretty disruptive,” said Pat Wolfla, a longtime volunteer at the shelter. “Our trash can’t get picked up, our deliveries are off schedule, and it’s reducing the traffic that we have. It’s just harder for people to get here.”
U.S. 40 is closed between East and Spring streets downtown, and the parking lot outside the humane society is inaccessible.
Melinda Wright, board president of the nonprofit, said she and other volunteers are instructing customers to park on the street, which can prove tricky, especially when someone is coming in from out of town and isn’t familiar with the area.
Maj. Derek Towle, who serves as traffic safety officer for the Greenfield Police Department, said the best place for visitors to park is along U.S. 40 about a quarter-mile east of the animal shelter, clear of the construction.
Though the organization has a force of faithful volunteers to keep operations up, Wright said some have limited mobility and are having trouble getting around the mounds of gravel and concrete in the parking lot.
The noise disrupts the schedules of the roughly 30 cats in the building, which can have a lasting effect on their behavior, potentially affecting how readily they’ll be adopted, Wright said.
“The constant noise and activity outside can make some of the cats more aggressive, or they may become more skittish,” Wright said. “Who wants to adopt a cat that wants to hide all the time and doesn’t want to be pet?”
When one cat starts behaving poorly or becomes uneasy, it can affect all the animals, she said.
“If one of them is upset, it elevates the anxiety for all the cats in the room,” she said. “Cats are really sensitive to change.”
Volunteers from the organization hope construction wraps up quickly, though they said it’s not clear precisely when it will end. Until then, they’re asking members of the community to continue supporting the organization in any way they can.
For more information about animals available at the shelter or to learn more about the organization, visit members.petfind er.com/~IN34/ or call 462-5404.