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City mulls animal shelter funding

Dec. 09, 2012 @ 10:40 PM

HUNTINGTON -- Huntington City Council is expected to make another $30,000 contribution Monday to the Huntington-Cabell-Wayne Animal Control Shelter, even though the shelter is approximately $50,000 in arrears to the city for employees' prescription drug costs.

City Finance Director Deron Runyon said he discovered the debt during a recent year-end review of bills that are owed to the city.

The city is the pass-through prescription drug provider for the shelter's employees, Runyon said. He confirmed that the city sent the shelter invoices on a monthly basis, but there was an extended period of time dating back to last year when they were not paid.

"This should not be seen as a reflection on the current management at the shelter," Runyon said. "They've been making payments in full and on time this year. Their costs are also considerably less."

Runyon told council members during a work session Thursday that the shelter has agreed to reimburse the city, but a payment plan has not been arranged yet.

The shelter has gone through numerous changes this year following the termination of former director Anita Asbury in January. Her firing led to a police investigation into the shelter's financial records that remains ongoing. Jim Cumm, a former parks and recreation programming director from Putnam County, has served as the shelter's director since March.

Cumm told reporters during a news conference two weeks ago that the shelter has made strides to improve living conditions for animals, train staff on preventing the spread of disease and modernize its records. Those changes, along with a renewed interest from volunteer groups, has resulted in the reduction of euthanizations and an increase in adoptions, he said.

Concerns have persisted, however. Beverly O'Dell, the shelter's volunteer services coordinator, and Dr. Jacqueline Chevalier, a local veterinarian who served as the medical director, both resigned recently. O'Dell said she resigned because Cumm was rude to her and that she questions whether animals are receiving proper care under his watch.

Chevalier said in her resignation letter that staff had repeatedly failed to follow the protocols and training that she designed to prevent the spread of disease. The shelter also owes her $16,600 for services that she provided at the shelter during the past two years. Cabell County Manager Chris Tatum, who has served as the shelter's fiscal agent during the transition period, said the shelter has agreed to a payment plan with Chevalier.

The shelter receives its funding from the city of Huntington, Cabell County Commission and Wayne County Commission. A board of directors consisting of representatives from each governmental entity oversees the shelter's operations.

Tatum said the Cabell and Wayne county commissions have committed $125,000 each to the shelter this fiscal year. The Cabell County Commission has dedicated an additional $25,000 from dog licensing taxes and donated approximately $25,000 in labor, he said.

If Huntington City Council approves a $30,000 contribution to the shelter Monday, it would bring its total for this fiscal year to $60,000. The city traditionally has contributed $100,000 annually to the shelter, but this year's budget did not allocate a specific amount.

Some council members want the shelter's board of directors to request that other municipalities in Cabell and Wayne counties make a contribution as well.

Follow H-D reporter Bryan Chambers on Facebook or Twitter @BryanChambersHD.

Huntington City Council meets at 7:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 800 5th Ave. Here's a look at other items on the agenda:

MAYOR/COUNCIL SALARIES: The council will discuss the first reading of an ordinance that sets the salaries of the mayor and council members. The City Charter requires council members to review their and the mayor's salary every four years. Councilman Jim Insco said during a work session Thursday that there will be no pay increases granted for the mayor or for council members. The mayor's salary was raised from $62,500 to $75,000 four years ago. Council members are paid $7,200 annually.

UNDERPASS IMPROVEMENTS: The council will vote on the approval of a $44,000 state grant that will be used to replace the sidewalk in the Hal Greer Boulevard underpass. Development and Planning Director Charles Holley said the city also is looking for funding to replace the railing along the sidewalk and that a volunteer group will paint a Marshall University-themed mural on the walls of the underpass next year.

COMMITTEE APPOINTMENTS: An ordinance that would give senior-ranking council members preference for the committees in which they serve will be withdrawn. Councilman Scott Caserta, who has served eight years on council, proposed the ordinance, saying it is an unwritten practice that has been followed for several years.

Insco, however, voiced his opposition to the measure during the work session. Committee appointments should rest solely with the council chairman and they should cater to an individual's strengths and weaknesses, Insco said.

"I apologize if I hurt anyone's feelings by saying this, but just because you've been on council for a long time doesn't mean that you're qualified to chair a committee," Insco said.

Insco's comments set off a brief argument between him and Caserta. Caserta accused Insco of telling Caserta earlier in the week that he thought the ordinance was a good idea.

"So thanks for throwing me under the bus," Caserta told Insco.

Insco denied telling Caserta that he supported the ordinance and said Caserta has not been "solid" on several issues during his time on the council.

ZONING ORDINANCES: The council will vote on the second reading of an ordinance that rezones the campus of St. Mary's Medical Center from residential to highway commercial. The campus was rezoned to residential during the city's last comprehensive planning process in 1998, but city officials have not been able to determine why.

An unrelated ordinance that would rezone a strip of properties between 33 and 215 6th Ave. West from residential to neighborhood commercial will be postponed to the first meeting in January. Councilman and Mayor-elect Steve Williams suggested that the ordinance be postponed because it has attracted a lot of interest from residents in the neighborhood and that advancing it to a second reading on Monday would set the stage for a vote on the proposal during a council meeting on Christmas Eve.



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