Trouble Again Brewing At Pocahontas County Animal Shelter
Marlinton, WV – Trouble is once again brewing at the Pocahontas County animal shelter. Relations seem to have broken down between those who are responsible for the shelter, the Pocahontas County Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the owners of the Allegheny Recreation Center building in Marlinton, where the county shelter is housed.
The SPCA holds the contract for the animal shelter. ARC owners JP Duncan and John Fitzgerald are subcontractors and run the shelter on a daily basis. At the Pocahontas County Commission meeting Tuesday, SPCA Treasurer Jay Miller told the Commissioners the working relationship between the two organizations may be irretrievably broken. Miller wants the Commission to consider separating the shelter from the other businesses housed in the ARC building. Commission President David Fleming is not sure that can be done.
“My central concern is that we need a place to put the animals” says Fleming “and the question for the County Commission is what control or authority do we have over the ARC building, given the lease that we have with Mr. Fitzgerald and Mr. Duncan. If we would have no authority to change the lease or to segment off certain portions of the building for animal control, if we have no authority to do that, to change things with ARC, it’s sort of a all or nothing proposition. I want to know what options we have.”
There’s also an issue of accountability. Miller says the ARC will receive $74,400.00 this fiscal year for which there is no financial accountability to the SPCA, the Commission, or the public. Combined with money contributed to the SPCA to cover veterinary expenses, the total cost of the animal control contract this fiscal year is almost $87,000.00.
Commissioner Fleming says that amount is probably not sustainable given declining county revenues. Miller says the SPCA could run the shelter for about half the cost of the ARC, a figure disputed by the ARC owners. Fleming offered his opinion on finding a solution.
“At a high level, my thinking is the County Commission has two possibilities” he says. “One is to try to renegotiate the lease terms in an affable fashion or just by letter of the law that we can do that, or just find different accommodations for the animals.”
The Commission will discuss this further at the next meeting on March 15th.
In other business, the Commissioners declined to take any action on a request from County Clerk Melissa Bennett to allow local attorneys access to County records after regular courthouse hours to do title searches. Bennett says many counties in the state already allow this under varying circumstances. Commissioner Martin Saffer is fervently opposed to the idea, citing security concerns and that attorneys shouldn’t be given special access.
Attorney Mike Doss says being able to do the work at night would greatly benefit his practice. He accuses Commissioner Saffer of having a conflict of interest in weighing in on the subject.
“Mr. Saffer himself has never done that I’ve ever seen a title search on his own that I know of” says Doss. “And maybe I’m wrong, maybe he has done it; he has someone who does it for him. And the conflict is that if we’re allowed to do them in the evening, he’s afraid to a certain extent that we’re going to take up all the work and then his helper will not have work – that’s the conflict.”
Doss’s argument failed to persuade the Commissioners.
The Commission also discussed repairs to the courthouse front steps. They will advertise for bids to the repairs. Based on those bids, they’ll decide whether or not the county has sufficient funding to proceed with the repairs.