Hancock County Commission buries its head in the sand

To the editor:

July 1 marked five years since the Hancock County Commission took over operation of the county animal shelter. They refused to renew a contract with a nonprofit that had been operating the county shelter for 20 years. Hancock County is the only Upper Ohio Valley county not partnering with a nonprofit to reduce shelter operation expenses.

Based on county documents, the county shelter operation is costing the taxpayers an additional $350,000 a year. The animal death rate has increased about 50%. Since the takeover, an additional $1.4 million in tax dollars has been spent operating the county animal shelter. YES An additional $1.4 million tax-dollars has been spent and the result is a 50% increase in the animal death rate!

What has occurred to the three commissioners who voted for the takeover of the animal shelter.

* An 18-year veteran commissioner won his re-election by only 10 votes. This was before he was found guilty of an ethics violation by the WV Ethics Commission and fined $2,000. He also returned $29,500 to the county to avoid criminal prosecution.

* A second commissioner decided to not run for re-election.

* The third commissioner, whom voted to takeover the shelter, lost his re-election bid by over 1,700 votes to a political newcomer.

The two new commissioners were left the task of rebuilding trust in the county commission. What have the two new commissioners done to inspire trust in the County Commission?

* Current Commission President Cowey was given county documents documenting the appointed Shelter Director attended a conference in Ft. Lauderdale and stayed an extra couple days at the county’s expense. He chose to accept her explanation and not the facts provided. After the residents of Hancock County voted not to re-elect Commissioner Barnabei, Cowey voted to allow Barnabei to represent Hancock County on the Brooke/Hancock Planning Commission. Why? Finally, six months ago Commission President Cowey was given county documents indicating that the County Shelter Director was not following state law at the animal shelter and has yet to even respond that he received the information.

* Recently-elected Commissioner Check did ask the Commission to file a legal request to gain control over $300,000 in Animal Shelter Excess Levy funds accumulated at the time of the shelter takeover.

The Commission stated it will use the funds to offset shelter expenses. She has yet to suggest any changes at the shelter and also is quiet about the Shelter Director not following state law.

The definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” During the last two years the Commission has spent over $1.5 million from the county’s “Rainy Day Fund” to balance its county budget. Without changes to the expensive county shelter management structure, how will they reduce the additional $350,000 a year it is costing to operate the shelter?

I guess they can just bury their heads in the sand like a bunch of ostriches!




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