The main question
To the Editor,
On July 1, 2016, the Hancock County Commissioners allowed an existing contract with a nonprofit that had been operating the county animal shelter for over 20 years to expire. The commission assumed shelter operations promising to “run the shelter even better.” Even though Hancock County’s annual shelter expense was substantially less compared to other local county shelters and the shelter had a lower kill rate, our commissioners took over shelter operations. The obvious question is why?
Were county residents unhappy with the operation of the shelter? No. County residents had just approved a new shelter excess levy by over 72 ½ percent.
Was the nonprofit demanding more money to operate the shelter? No. The nonprofit had just accepted a third consecutive county budget cut. The commission’s contribution to the nonprofit had been reduced again from a previous $225,000 high to just $88,000. Adding the annual $100,000 excess levy money, the total county support offered to the nonprofit was $188,000 for fiscal year 2017.
Since taking over operation of the shelter, what has occurred? In their first year of operating the shelter:
• The commissioners spent $160,00 more than the nonprofit’s bid to operate the shelter.
• The kill rate doubled at the shelter from 5 percent to over 10 percent.
• Shelter management implemented a program to release animals back “nto the wild.”
• Shelter management implemented a program to transfer animals to out of state businesses with no contracts and minimal reimbursement to the county.
In their second year of shelter operation:
• Shelter management implemented a program to destroy animals on-site.
• The kill rate continued over 10 percent.
• The commission created a new director position with responsibility for the shelter and animal related areas at a taxpayer expense of over $67,000 in salary and benefits.
On the first business day after assuming shelter operation, the commission contacted the W.Va. Attorney General’s Office requesting a legal opinion as to who had legal access to an Animal Shelter Excess Levy balance of over $360,000.
The Attorney General recommended returning the money to the taxpayers. It has been a year since the opinion and the Commission has yet to return the money. Why?
The commission spent over $60,000 of levy account money after the nonprofit contract expired. Why weren’t these bills paid from the county general account like other shelter bills?
Since the commission takeover, taxpayers have payed hundreds of thousands of dollars more to operate the shelter at no benefit to the animals. The current director managing the shelter had no experience operating a shelter when hired and was given a 50 percent pay increase. The above expense to the taxpayer and change in animal care is the result of her “leadership.”
Is this what residents expected when they approved the excess levy? The commission sees what has happened at the shelter and continues to support how the shelter is being operated. The obvious question is why?