Stark Countian Judith King (a member of the Stark County Dog Pound Advisory Board [SCDPAB - Pound]) is "hot on the trail" of Stark County commissioners about what she alleges to be unacceptable delay in placing a ventilation system at the Stark County Dog Pound facility on Mahoning Road so that the dogs housed there can get some circulating air to cool them on these hot, hot, hot "dog days of summer."
King, in a couple of emails over the past week, has endeavored to bring the plight of the dogs to the attention of area media including the SCPR.
Of course, The Report has a track record of being the most responsive media outlet monitoring the solving of long standing problems at the Pound which predate the current Stark County Board of Commissioners.
Ms. King in the emails makes the following allegations:
- The Stark County Dog Pound operation is a low priority with the Stark County commissioners,
- Three years ago former Stark County Dog Warden Evert Gibson in having the roof of the Pound repaired, did not maintain ventilation for the resident dogs, to wit:
- "Prior to that [the reroofing] both sides of that long room you walked through were open to the outside. Now it is all enclosed rendering it dark, dank, and suffocating" (an exact quote from King, in bold type for emphasis),
- The Friends of the Stark Pound (FOSP) held a fundraiser in September, 2011 for the express purpose of getting money which was to be applied towards remedying the lack of ventilation at the Pound. She claims that Commissioner Janet Creighton and Dog Warden Reagan Tetreault attended the event.
- The commissioners promised to have the ventilation fixed prior to the onset of summer, 2012,
- The only action taken as of the summer of 2012 is to have an engineering study done with the commissioners have elected to take money from Stark County's capital improvement fund,
- "The dogs are beginning to suffer from kennel cough and heat stress due to the extreme temperatures."
- The Stark County Dog Pound "remain[s] firmly rooted in yesteryear" when compared to the Stark County Humane Society and the Summit County Dog Pound which, she says, have implemented "amazing changes" in "the philosophy and practice of kennel management" in recent years.
- "The current commissioners have turned a deaf ear to the [advisory] board because we have reported to them that conditions at the pound are not improving and indeed Reagan Tetrault [the dog warden appointed a little over two years ago] is part of the problem."
- [In an aside to The Repository's Jim Hilibish, who did a piece on June 29th entitled: Keep your cool in this heat wave], King alleges that the wading pools he saw when he stopped by the Pound (apparently, an ad hoc way to cool the dogs down) to get information/response from Warden Tetrault co-incident to his article, were provided by a group of Stark County citizens who volunteer at the SCDP at their personal expense, and, finally, to quote King:
- "The volunteers are responsible for any aid and care the dogs receive at the pound. The county provides storage space only. The warden can not tell you what dogs are at the pound or anything about them. She is in her air-conditioned office. She does not come to work dressed to handle dogs despite that fact that she does have a uniform she could wear. Staff members send potential adopters to the volunteers for information about the dogs," and
- "I think there is agreement by everyone involved, including the pound employees, that [Warden] Reagan [Tetreault] has made a total disaster of the pound."
Well, the SCPR forwarded a copy of King's email to Commissioner Creighton.
On Tuesday, Commissioner responded to yours truly with a telephone call.
In the ensuing discussion, she said:
- While she supports the FOSP and did buy a ticket to the September, 2011 fundraiser, she did not actually attend the event,
- She believes that Commissioners Bernabei and Ferguson also bought tickets to the fundraiser but did not attend,
- That the commissioners will be spending $70,000 to $80,000 [from the county capital improvement fund] to fix the Pound's heating, cooling and ventilation problems and that the $8,000 raised by the FOSP will not be part of the expenditure,
- King's e-mail statement that $25,000 has been spent on engineering is erroneous and that the fact of the matter is that $12,500 (a contract with MDS & Associates: consulting engineer) has been authorized,
- That she was not interested in going through King's entire list and "nitpick on everything,"
- That "things in government take time" and that government processes are not like a private individual calling up a contractor and ordering up a fix lickedly-split (the SCPR term, not Creighton's),
- That the commissioners are going to do the ventilation project properly and not in a quick-fix fashion which means that it will be the fall before the project is done,
- That the current board of commissioners has done much more to solve the problems at the SCDP than the previous three boards,
- That the board in taking $70,000 to $80,000 out of the county's permanent improvement fund is evidence that the commissioners are giving the Dog Pound needs some priority because the money is not available from moneys raised from dog license and other fees and which means that the $70,000 to $80,000 will not be available to other county capital improvement needs,
- The commissioners are doing the very best they can at the Pound but that "it is just not good enough for some people,"
- That this problem is going to be fixed but that the Stark County public should understand that this board of commissioners is dealing with the problem whereas prior boards did not.
As readers of The Report know, yours truly believes that the current board is vastly superior to boards going back at least to the early 1980s.
While Johnnie A. Maier, Jr (former Stark County Democratic Party chairman) can say it until he is blue in the face that former Stark County commissioner Gayle Jackson (1995 - 2007) has been the greatest Stark County commissioner of all time, the record indicates something else.
In the opinion of The Report, she bears a major portion of the responsibility for the slide of Stark County government into county financial crisis/economic development oblivion and infrastructure decay (e.g. the Zimber Ditch) inasmuch as she was commissioner for 12 years: a time period which yours truly believes that the county began an accentuated decline.
Only with the election of Tom Bernabei and Janet Creighton in 2010 have matters began to turnaround.
However, such is not to say that the current board is doing everything right.
The Report believes that the commissioners made a major mistake in not asking the the Stark County public for a 1% sales tax rather than the 0.5% that voters approved in November, 2011.
The margin of victory on the 0.5% levy (I know, I know; using hindsight which, of course is 20/20), indicates that the current board had turned the public's confidence around sufficiently and coupled with the highly effective campaign effort they waged could have passed a 1% increase.
The Report believes that this missed opportunity will come back to haunt the commissioners.
While they will be able to stabilize current operations of county departments of government with the 0.5%, there is no room whatsoever to get aggressive with dealing with the virtual non-existence of an economic development long-term game plan and to get a grip on Stark County's falling apart or deficient infrastructure which includes more than the ditching problem.
As an example, how about the stagnation on completely and fully bringing Stark County's 9-1-1 emergency call receiving/dispatch system to a "state-of-the-art" condition because of a lack of funding necessary to finalize the project?
The SCPR also thinks that the commissioners may not have raised dog license and other fees enough when they acted last year.
The Stark County Dog Pound is set up financially to be self-supporting enterprise fund type of operation. The fact that commissioners are taking anywhere $70,000 to $80,000 from the county capital improvement fund in clear indication, among others, that they were too conservative in making sure that the enterprise fund-esque SCDP financing system has adequate revenues to meet annual needs including capital funding requirements.
There are other capital fund needs (e.g. development of a spay-and-neuter clinic and a walking path) at the Pound in addition to the ventilation system which commissioners have not dealt with. Is the reason for inaction a lack of funding?
Nonetheless, the SCPR does think that progress is being made by the current commissioners on solving persisting Pound problems.
It is clear to The Report that there is a poor relationship between members of the Stark County Dog Pound Advisory Board and Pound volunteers vis-a-vis the commissioners, employees at the Pound (who appear to be overzealous in protecting their employment turf from intrusion by the volunteers) and Warden Reagan Tetreault.
There is some thinking that the relationships are so bad that the commissioners will later this month disband the SCABDP in an attempt rid themselves, the warden and the personnel at the Pound of what it appears they believe to be an overstepping of a proper role on the part of the advisory board members and volunteers.
If the commissioners were to do so, the SCPR believes that such would be an admission that the commissioners and the management at the Pound do not have the necessarily leadership skills to deal with these volunteer and perhaps overzealous (in the sense of understanding who is in charge) Stark County citizens and to, over time, refashion the relationships into a complementary modality.
While it is not comfortable for those who have to deal with complaints without seeming end, it is important that the likes of Judith King and Stark County dog lovers to have a forum within which to bring Pound problems to the attention of the Stark County public through the commissioners.
King has made her points to the commissioners and to the Stark County media. The commissioners have responded. (see above)
The SCPR encourages the commissioners to stay the course on disbanding the SCDPAB, if they in fact are considering doing such, and instead use their collective leadership skills to initiate a "come and let us reason together" communication structure with their advisers in order to achieve a workable balance among all the parties involved.
If the commissioners do decide to disband the advisory board, won't they thereby be sending a message to the Stark County public they do not have the patience and political grace necessary to lead in the messy business of our American democracy?