The Pocahontas County Commission held a work session in the afternoon of July 18. The stated purpose of this session was to hold a discussion and/or take action on “annual savings to County Commission budget; ambulance and ambulance authority; the Animal Shelter; and the Humane Society.”
Trish McNaull, of the Pocahontas County Humane Society, explained that the Humane Society has been receiving a $5,000 annual contribution from the commission for years, but now that the commission has cut their annual contribution budget in half, from $50,000 to $25,000, and are limiting the contribution amounts that any one non-profit organization can receive each year to a maximum of $2,500 from $5,000, the Society may have to cut back on their services to the community.
She explained that they are the only organization in the county that addresses the large feral cat problem here. She said Animal Control and the Animal Shelter consider feral cats to be wild animals, so they don’t deal with them, and are so swamped dealing with dog issues they hardly have any time or resources to deal with domestic cats.
McNaull said their feral cat Trap/Neuter/Return program provides a valuable service to county residents, and they also provide vouchers to residents to have their domestic cats spayed and neutered, however these services are very costly. They pay about $50,000 annually in vet bills alone to provide these services. McNaull said besides the $5,000 they get from the commission each year, they receive a $24,000 annual grant from the Agriculture Department, but must pay a $17,000 match to qualify for that grant.
McNaul also said many people believe the Humane Society is just another name for the Animal Shelter and Animal Control, but while they may work together in placing dogs in good homes, they are different.
McNaull added that the county needs a full-time Animal Control Officer available to handle animal complaints 24/7. She said the Humane Society employees sometimes get those calls from citizens in the middle of the night, and quite often she finds herself out looking for and finding loose dogs in the woods at night.
Commissioner John Rebinski said the commission might be able to make an exception to their $2,500 contribution limit for the Humane Society. Commission President Walt Helmick, however, said his priorities are the hospital and the ambulance service in the county over taking care of animals. He said that PMH is the only county-owned hospital left in West Virginia, since all the other local hospitals have been sold off to large medical organizations such as CAMC or WVU.
Regarding budget savings the commission has created, Helmick said that the commission has saved the county $184,000 over the past two years by doing away with the Commission Attorney position two years ago.
Commissioner Jamie Walker asked Rebinski about plans to provide a County Ambulance in the southern part of the county, as is being done in the northern part. Rebinski said he is waiting for the Marlinton and the Hillsboro Volunteer Fire Departments (VFDs) to decide what they want to do about that. He said the southern end is in better shape because there are already two paid ambulance crew members at the Marlinton VFD who work during the daytime on weekdays, and, if available, the PMH Ambulance crew can also answer medical calls if no other ambulance is available.
Rebinski also said that he has finally heard from the DEA about getting their drug permit for the County Ambulance Authority to begin operation in the northern area.