County’s control of Animal Shelter questioned

NEW CUMBERLAND  — The Hancock County Animal Shelter was the focus of the Hancock County Commission meeting on Thursday.

Weirton resident Rudy Rosnick cited statistics he said are evidence the county isn’t managing the facility properly since taking over operations in July. Rosnick said he obtained statistics on animal shelter operations from July through September through a state Freedom of Information request.

“Expenses for the first quarter of commission shelter operations totaled $94,478,” said Rosnick. “This is a little over twice what it would have cost the taxpayers if the commissioners had just allowed the Hancock County Animal Shelter Foundation to continue operating the shelter.”

Rosnick also projected shelter expenses would cost the county about $200,000 more to operate the shelter this year than if the foundation was still operating the facility.

“Your June decision to take over operations of the shelter is a good example of mismanagement of taxpayers’ dollars,” Rosnick continued.

The foundation had operated the shelter for the county for about 20 years before a dispute over language regarding euthanasia, intake waiting lists and adoption fees between the foundation and commissioners scuttled contract talks. According to Communications Director Robert Vidas, the foundation missed the bid deadline, resulting in the county taking over shelter operations under West Virginia law. No other entities bid for shelter operations, said Vidas.

Rosnick also said it is true that managing the shelter would cost the county more than it would the foundation  a nonprofit organization  as the county wouldn’t be able to accept private donations and other resources available to a nonprofit entity.

However, after Thursday’s meeting, Rosnick contended the foundation did submit a bid, which he said was ignored by Vidas and commissioners.

Rosnick also stated he had filed an ethics complaint with the state against Commissioners Joe Barnabei, Jeff Davis and Mike Swartzmiller along with Vidas over the matter.

Commissioners approved the hiring of up to 10 part-time employees for the animal shelter on July 7 and posted an employment notice on the county website on Aug. 2. All the employees who worked for the Hancock County Animal Shelter Foundation were let go, but some of them reapplied in the days following the county’s takeover.

Rosnick also listed statistics on shelter operations from July through September on the number of animals accepted, animal deaths, number of adoptions and the number of animals euthenized. He said 21 animals were adopted in the first three months, according to county shelter records.

During the meeting, Vidas read statistics on shelter operations in 2010 when the foundation ran the shelter. After the meeting, Vidas presented statistics for shelter operations from July through October of this year on statistics concerning animal care at the shelter. He said those statistics differed from Rosnik’s because they covered a four-month period while Rosnick’s statistics were over a three-month period.

“We wanted to try to run the shelter as well as the (foundation), and according to the numbers, we have,” said Vidas.

None of the commissioners commented on the matter during the meeting.

In other matters:

¯ Commissioners unanimously approved the hiring of Stephanie Fryer as deputy director of the county office of emergency management.

¯ Commissioners approved the promotion of Jeff McIntyre, deputy first class with the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department, to sergeant on the recommendation of Sheriff Ralph Fletcher.

It was announced the Hancock County Courthouse would be closed Thursday and Friday in observance of the Thanksgiving Day holiday.