Pocahontas County Humane Society may be barking up the wrong tree
The Pocahontas County Humane Society [PCHS] wants to get back in the county Animal Control business. J. L. Clifton presented a proposal from the Humane Society for the 2011-2012 animal welfare contract during the May 17 Pocahontas County Commission meeting. While the commissioners seemed open to the plan, the cost may be too high for the commission to accept.
The PCHS entered into a contract with the commission following the resignation of Animal Control Officer Sandy Mallow in December 2009. However, there was a break down in the society's working relationship with the owners of the ARC building in Marlinton, which houses the county animal shelter. ARC subsequently contracted with the Pocahontas County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals [PCSPCA] to run the shelter. That contract expires on June 30, 2011, unless extended by the commission.
Clifton says the PCHS offers reliability, accountability and simplicity in their proposal. He cites some statistics to back that up; since January of 2010, they've assisted in the spay or neuter of 384 pets, adopted out 68 animals, sent 277 out on rescue and helped sponsor numerous rabies clinics. He says they can also offer more transparency in how commission funds are spent for the shelter.
The PCHS proposal asks for $85,000 for the animal welfare contract. This would pay for a shelter manager, some veterinary expenses and the necessary supplies to take care of up to 30 dogs and 25 cats. They are also asking the Commission to spend $60,000 to purchase the Humane Society's mobile home on Second Avenue in Marlinton, which is currently in use as office and shelter space. The society would use the proceeds of that sale to build a county animal shelter on four acres of land they own in Huntersville near Pampered Pets.
Commissioner Martin Saffer noted that the total amount of $145,000 is almost three times the amount the commission is considering for the animal welfare contract. But Clifton countered that the commission's 2011-2012 budget of $51,000, down from a budget of $80,250 in 2010, is unrealistic.
"As much as we would like to be in that range, to do it properly, there's just no way," Clifton said. "We have struggled with these numbers, tried to cut corners where we can, but we don't want to be in a position where we come back three quarters or less of the way through the year and say ﾑwe need help, we're in trouble."'
When asked by commission president David Fleming as to how the county might use the society's building, Clifton offered a couple of ideas.
"First and foremost with the annex project for the courthouse getting dwindled down to an elevator as I understand it, you can always use the space," Clifton said. "You're currently paying rent for the Day Report Community Corrections program, $550 [per month], I believe. Over a period of 10 years ,depending on how you break that down, the building would pay for itself, even if it's used for nothing but Community Corrections."
The Commission also discussed a draft of an advertisement for bids for the animal welfare contract for the next fiscal year. The decision to place the ad was tabled until the next ommission meeting in June to give the commissioners more time to review it.
Prosecuting Attorney questions use of outside consultant
Pocahontas County Prosecuting Attorney Donna M. Price has some ethical concerns about the use of an outside attorney to review drug evidence for the county Sheriff's Department. Price says she just wants to find out how this came about.
"The employment of outside counsel, when I got on the [meeting] agenda, had no idea how or why Mr. Martin was brought into this" Price said. "After speaking with the sheriff this week, the best I can classify it at this point [was] in the role of a consultant. When I got on the agenda, it was A-to find out whether you all employed him in that capacity without consult or knowledge to me and my office, and B-if you did so, what was the rationale or reasoning behind it."
Price is referring to Charleston Attorney Robert Martin, who was asked by Pocahontas County Sheriff David Jonese to review evidence prior to a large drug raid on May 10, conducted by the Sheriff's Department and US Forest Service officers. She's concerned that Martin, while in the county concerning other legal matters, may have taken advantage of an opportunity in the Sheriff's Department.
"The Sheriff utilized him as a consultant. At this point I don't believe he's asked to be compensated; I don't know, I obviously wasn't part of that ﾖ wasn't brought into that decision ﾖ but I am left with the aftermath of it," Price said. "And there were comments made that the sheriff was unaware of at the time, about the length of time; a little bit of boasting on Mr. Martin's part, which, therein lies the reason for my getting on the agenda. Bob can float in here today and float out tomorrow, and whatever he does I'm left cleaning up."
Price says she's waiting on an advisory opinion about Martin's actions from the West Virginia Bar Association. She says because he acted as a consultant, he may not be protected by attorney-client privilege, which could possibly affect the prosecution of the drug charges. She says she will advise the commission as soon as she gets an answer from the bar association.
Commission Grants High Rocks' contribution request
For the second year in a row, the Pocahontas County Commission has agreed to support the efforts of the High Rocks Academy AmeriCorps program, approving a $25,000 contribution to the organization for fiscal year 2011-2012. Susan Burt, co-founder of the HRA, says she's always been proud of what the HRA stands for. But she says with the addition of the AmeriCorps program, they've been able to do so much more.
"This is the happiest I've ever been with what High Rocks is doing for the county since we first started; it's really an exciting period of time" says Burt. "High Rocks is no longer a group of girls up on a mountain; through the extra help these bright young AmeriCorps have given us this year, we have helped over 500 kids in our county feel motivated, respected, have something to talk about that's cool when they come home every day."
The Commission provided $26,000 to High Rocks last year to get the AmeriCorps program started. That covered about 40% of the cost; the rest came from grants and private donations. Burt says they will have to raise about $20,000 this year in addition to the $25,000 contribution. This covers 10 AmeriCorps positions, six of which are in Pocahontas County.
High Rocks has had a profound influence on Pocahontas County High School juniorLauren Garretson, who spoke to the commission.
"When I first came into High Rocks, I was in eighth grade, I've been in for five years." ﾠGarretson said. "I was a completely different person. I was not confident in myself at all, and I was considered a high-risk kid. Through the years, High Rocks has helped me to realize how important an education is for myself ﾖhas helped me to become more active in the community."
"I do lots of community service, I'm a straight-A student, I recently won second place in the Poetry Out Loud state competition. I've had monologues published in college newspaper articles. I'm just a really different person, and for the better; and it's solely because of High Rocks."
The Commission has designated $75,000 for community contributions in the fiscal year that begins July 1, or about $19,000 per quarter. They've already committed $10,000 to the Child and Youth Advocacy Center. Even so, commission Fleming says he believes in the High Rocks program enough to commit a third of their discretionary budget.
"Since we gave out $10,000 at the last meeting, that leaves us with basically $9000 for the first quarter" he says. "Your request being $25,000, would basically consume the second quarter meetings $19,000; which is fine with me, because now that you've come and talked with us, I understand more of what you're doing."
Two other contribution requests for CASA and Mountain Resource Conservation and Development were tabled until the August Commission meeting.
The Commission also took the following actions:
- Agreed to write a letter of support for Grandpa's Pantry owner Lois Mamek to allow her to put signs for her business on Route 219.
- Approved up to $2000 for the Pocahontas County Farmers Market for fees associated with obtaining non-profit status and liability insurance
- Agreed to write a letter of sponsorship for the Pearl S. Buck Foundation to serve beer at an upcoming event - Commissioner Jamie Walker opposed this motion
- And approved the re-appointment of Janet Ghigo, Don McNeel and Christine Rebinski to the Emergency Medical ServicesAuthority Board for three terms, July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2014