Humane society, county still negotiating contract

PARKERSBURG – A new contract between the Wood County Commission and Humane Society of Parkersburg for animal control, shelter services remains unsigned as negotiations are apparently continuing.

The commissioners and society officials earlier agreed to enter a two-year contract at the same rate of funding as the previous year. As part of that contract, the county agreed to purchase a new truck for the humane society, with the cost of the vehicle not to exceed $27,000. The county agreed to pay $271,344 for the animal control/shelter services. Since the commission cannot by law obligate the county for more than one fiscal year at a time, the contract would be renewed at the end of the first year for a second year.

The society earlier submitted a proposed contract to the county for consideration. The contract was turned over to Prosecutor Jason Wharton for review. Wharton proposed some revisions, including adding language regarding disposition of the truck in the event the contract was terminated early.

The prosecutor recommended the county include a provision that it would be the responsibility of the society to provide insurance for the truck, and if the agreement is terminated prior to June 2015, the humane society would return the truck and retitle it in the name of the county, free of any liens.

“That sounds reasonable,” commission President Wayne Dunn commented when the proposed revisions were presented to the commissioners at an earlier meeting.

In the meantime the proposed changes were forwarded to the society for review and officials with the humane society have responded via email.

Officials with the humane society said their board had not discussed or approved conversion of the truck in the event the contract is terminated. Society officials noted the board has approved a proposed addition to the contract made by humane society attorney Robert Goldenberg.

In their response, humane society officials note the truck was a form of payment since it was proposed by the county commission to purchase the truck in the amount the society was being shorted this year, and the society was to be reimbursed for the truck if it is retitled in the name of the commission.

Officials with the humane society noted the new contract could not be signed until the issue was resolved.

Language proposed by Goldenberg and approved by the humane society board, relating to disposition of the truck if the contract were to be terminated early was forwarded for the commission’s consideration.

The proposed new language states: “In the event that this contract is terminated before June 30, 2015, the Humane Society of Parkersburg shall legally and physically transfer the vehicle to the Wood County Commission within 10 days after a proper termination, and the Wood County Commission shall within 24 days thereafter pay the Humane Society of Parkersburg the average Blue Book value of the vehicle as of the date of such transfer.”

County officials said a meeting with the humane society representatives will be scheduled on Monday’s agenda.

The next commission meeting will be Monday in their second floor courthouse office, room 203. Meetings begin at 9 a.m.

The county is required by code to provide animal control services for dogs and has traditionally provided those services through a contract with the Humane Society of Parkersburg. The commissioners earlier refused to fund a requested 10 percent funding increase, which would have been an additional $27,135, for the new contract beginning July 1. The county’s current contract is for $271,344. The humane society then informed the commissioners it planned to cut three humane officer positions, effectively taking it out of the animal control business.

County officials began exploring other options, including visiting neighboring counties shelter facilities and looking into liability and costs of operating a county-run animal shelter.

During another meeting, humane society officials proposed three options ranging in cost from $298,483, which included current services of sheltering, and full animal control services to $202,746, which included shelter services, with animal control to be provided by the county, at the county’s discretion, including neglect and cruelty investigations, pick up of strays, and after-hours emergency services. A third option proposed by the society would have cost the county $269,311 and included society-provided shelter services and animal control during weekday business hours with the county providing after-hours emergency services.

Humane society officials told the commission earlier their continued role in animal control would require replacement of their truck at an estimated cost of $28,000. The commission agreed to provide up to $27,000 for the truck.