Support offered to dog warden

CADIZ – A group of area residents were in attendance at Wednesday’s Harrison County Commission meeting to offer their support for the former county dog warden.

Several offered their support for Tina DeWalt, former dog warden who was recently fired, and voiced questions and complaints about the commission’s handling of the issue.

Board Chairman Don Bethel announced that after reviewing 22 applications, the decision had been made to hire John Birney and Jeff Campbell to fill two part-time warden posts.

Bethel thanked the applicants and stated that after consultation with the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department and careful review of applicants to ensure they met criteria set forth, a decision had been reached.

“It is going to be a team effort and we felt it was essential that the two new part-time wardens would be compatible,” Bethel stated.

“This is not about the current dog warden, it is about better serving the public and we felt this move was in the best interest of the county.

“We do want to thank Miss DeWalt for her past service. We know her heart was in the right place,” Bethel added. “She was considered for the second position but we felt that there was a potential for conflict and, again, this has to be a compatible partner for the first warden.”

Addressing questions from Sandra Manbeck, Bethel explained the dog wardens will be sharing the single vehicle and will utilize a tranquilizer gun in an effort to humanely deal with certain calls and therefore would be required to have a weapon certification.

Bethel also added the requirement for crisis management was important to avoid escalating what are often emotional and potentially volatile situations.

Manbeck asked if the county intended to return to the 72-hour policy for dogs in the pound.

“Absolutely not. We are not placing any limit on the time and we’re going to continue to try and get every dog adopted. There is no intention of putting any dog down,” Bethel said.

“However that is part of the equation. It is unfortunate, and I do not want to think in those negative terms. I can assure you that we will continue to welcome volunteers and their help in making every effort to adopt every dog,” he said.

Dog pound volunteer Beth Roski said she donates time in the pound.

“I have brought supplies to the pound each Friday, supplying the pound with all the cleaning supplies, all new bowls and rawhide bones.”

Roski said it has taken upwards of three months to adopt dogs at the pound, asking for assurances that the policy will not change.

Bethel thanked her for her support and addressed allegations that the board had not met with DeWalt concerning the changes.

Bethel stated it would be the wrong forum to discuss the personnel issues and again assured Roski the board had met on several occasions with DeWalt prior to taking action.

“You are trying to make this about the dog warden, but I feel this is about better serving the public. I am not saying all the issues were about performance; there were other issues that I do not feel are appropriate to talk about in public,” he said.

Bethel also told the group he was not against turning the pound into a shelter but the funding would have to come from the public. “We welcome any proposals and will consider them if funding is made available.”

The supporters of DeWalt questioned when the decision had been made to “get rid” of the current dog warden.

Joyce Klinger, agent for the Harrison County Concerned Citizens Organization, spoke in defense of the board. “I regularly attend these meetings and keep up with the news in the county through social media, and two weeks ago when they announced their plans during the meeting was the first time I had heard of the proposal. I do not feel that there was a plot to get rid of the dog catcher, I don’t feel these three gentleman would do that,” Klinger added.

The new wardens will start at their posts today and will seek assistance from bordering counties for training.

“It is our understanding that the assistant dog warden has found other employment,” Bethel informed. “We had never intended for the assistant to be replaced and we will address that vacancy when official notification is given.”

In other matters, Scott Blackburn of the Harrison County Department of Job and Family Services told the board long-time employee Ed Jackson retired effective Dec. 28 and that his agency will fill the position internally.

In other business, the board:

Approved a road-use agreement presented by Doug Crabtree representing the engineer’s office. An agreement with Hess Ohio Development for 0.5 miles of county Road 38 to allow access the Cadiz B well site was OK’d.

Heard from Chris Jacobs, director of the Carroll-Columbiana-Harrison Solid Waste District, who said starting Feb. 1 there will be some changes to recycling in Harrison County. The district is converting most of the recycling containers from the existing large “roll-off” containers to smaller recycling containers that will be emptied on a regular schedule. Most drop-off recycling sites in Harrison County will have new recycling containers that have two large lids on the top and smaller sliding doors on both sides of the container.

Freeport and New Athens will continue to have the existing larger containers, it was noted.

“This change will help us make sure that there is room in the containers when you go to recycle and also allow us to be more efficient,” said Jacobs. “Right now, we have to check the roll-offs every week and schedule them to be switched when they’re full. With the new containers, they will be emptied on a set day every week.”

In addition to the new containers, all the recyclables can be mixed together in the same container after Feb. 1, 2013, it was noted.