Levy plans for Brooke animal shelter move forward

WELLSBURG – The Brooke County Commission agreed Tuesday to move forward with plans for a five-year levy for the operation of the county’s animal shelter.

Commission President Tim Ennis said the commission hopes to put the proposed five-year levy on ballots in the November general election.

If approved, it would raise $300,662 for the shelter’s day-to-day operations beginning July 1, 2015.

Ennis said owners of homes with an appraised value of $50,000 would pay an additional $7.20 per year in taxes, while those with homes appraised at $100,000 would pay $14.40.

“All of this money would be dedicated to the animal shelter. It wouldn’t be used for any other purposes,” Ennis said, refuting rumors the commission was considering levy funds for the county’s sheriff’s department.

Money from the levy would supplement about $297,000 currently budgeted by the commission for the shelter.

County Commissioner Jim Andreozzi said a major expense has been utilities and maintenance at the shelter.

“The costs have gone up because we’re operating in a much larger shelter,” he said, referring to the shelter’s former location on Allegheny Street in Follansbee.

Andreozzi said the previous shelter was about 1,000 square feet, compared to the current one, which is about 4,000 square feet.

A previous county commission moved the shelter from the Follansbee site to the former main headquarters of the Windsor Coal Co. in Beech Bottom when the company donated it to the commission.

Poor conditions at the old location, including a leaking roof, excess runoff from the adjacent hillside and a lack of space, were cited as reasons for the move.

A one-time five-year levy approved by voters in 2004 raised $338,000 for renovations to the Windsor Coal building to accommodate the shelter.

Recently the commissioners planned to get estimates to lower the ceiling there to reduce its utility costs. Andreozzi said electricity for the shelter, which includes an air handler system designed to reduce the spread of airborne diseases, costs about $60,000 per year.

Ennis said the commission still plans to pursue that “and anything we can do to save money there.”

He said the commission also hopes to partner with various groups to reduce the cost of supplies for the shelter.

County Commissioner Norma Tarr initially expressed reservations about the levy. She noted the Brooke County Board of Education has made plans to put in the same election a levy to support the construction of a proposed new middle school near Brooke High School.

Plans call for the school levy to be effective following the expiration of an earlier school bond issue that supported $15 million in improvements to various schools, including construction of the Brooke High School Wellness Center.

Tarr said she was concerned about the impact of two new levies on taxpayers.

But Ennis said the school board hasn’t advised the commission of its plans and the commission must meet certain deadlines to have the shelter levy placed on ballots.

The three commissioners agreed to have the levy drawn up.

Wayne Buxton, a member of Animal Advocates- Brooke County, a group that has assisted the shelter in various ways, said the levy will help to relieve some of the commission’s financial expense for the shelter.

He said since declining revenue forced the commission to cut its budget earlier this year, some have called for the shelter to be closed.

Buxton said doing that would be detrimental because it would result in a larger number of strays being about in the community.

He said working with the commission, Animal Advocates and others, the shelter’s staff has reduced the number of dogs at the shelter, from 145 in February to 36 this month, primarily through animal rescue groups and direct adoptions.

Andreozzi said he believes the public will support the levy because of the shelter’s reputation for treating its animals as humanely as possible.

In other business:

Richard Ferguson, chairman of the county’s dilapidated structure committee, told the commission the group has received cooperation from some property owners in cleaning up targeted sites and expressed concern about the condition of state Route 27.

Ferguson said the road has been damaged from a flow of heavy trucks traveling to and from natural gas drilling sites.

He said though one area has been patched, it would benefit from more permanent repairs and suggested approaching natural gas companies for help.

Andreozzi said state highway officials plan to re-pave the patched area later this year but he will contact a natural gas company for assistance.

Resident Les McGowan said there once was a sign near the intersection of state Routes 27 and 2 advising truck drivers to check their brakes but it’s since been removed.

County Clerk Sylvia Benzo said with the passage of a new state law, she and her staff will no longer be able to notarize documents for the public.

Benzo said she was glad to provide the service at no cost to residents but beginning July 1, she and her staff may notarize only county documents.

The commissioners reappointed James Hervey to the Washington Pike Public Service District board and accepted the resignation of Henry Tarr, a member of the Brooke Hills Park board for more than 25 years.

The commissioners received letters of interest in three other seats on the park board from Kailie Ridgely, Julie Barnhart and Jason Ferguson but tabled filling them, pending consultation with the park board.

They noted a seat on the county’s solid waste authority remains vacant with the upcoming departure of long-time chairman Glenn Kocher.

The board oversees the county’s recycling program and meets at 6:30 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of January, April, July and October.

Letters of interest may be submitted to the county clerk’s office at the county courthouse.