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Animal shelter issue dies in initial planning stage

By Staff | Dec 24, 2008

The people spoke and as a result a proposed purchase of a building and property on Dry Run for an animal shelter has been canceled.

The commissioners discussed Tuesday the results of the open meeting held Dec. 11 to allow public comment of the proposed project.

At the meeting, citizens spoke out against the proposed location. Tyler County is one of a handful of counties without an animal shelter.

Commission President Bob Wable was very disappointed at the public’s disapproval of the property and the wave of negative opinion has affected the project for the worse.

“The majority of the people there were opposed to an animal shelter on Dry Run,” explained Wable. “I don’t think they were all opposed to an animal shelter, but after reviewing it with (property owner Ralph Harter) the next day, he was a little upset that the people were against it and he called me back the next day and said he’d like to withdraw his offer of selling us the property since the people of Dry Run were so upset about having an animal shelter out there.”

Over 55 people attended the public meeting, which took place on the second floor of the Tyler County Courthouse. According to Wable, most of the negative comments were directed at the location and not the project itself. The commission is hoping that the public will get involved and help the county find a suitable location.

“Through a mutual agreement between the commissioners and Ralph Harter we decided to drop the project of putting an animal shelter out on Dry Run. However, we would like to emphasize that we do have some money earmarked for the animal shelter and we would appreciate it very much if people would give us some suggestions as to where we could put an animal shelter that would not be offensive to residents nearby,” said Wable. “Maybe with everyone looking for property we can come up with a solution.”

The public meeting is just one setback out of several. The county had twice previously approached the public with levies to fund the building of an animal shelter. Both of those attempts failed. Despite the failures, Wable sees the issue slowly getting steam.

“Maybe something good will come out of this public hearing,” wondered Wable. “The reason we had the public hearing was to find out how the people felt about having an animal shelter out on Dry Run and they spoke and told us they didn’t want it. It’s only right that we back down and go at it another direction. Hopefully we’ll keep looking and hopefully we’ll find a solution to this problem. The county really needs an animal shelter. We’re the only one around that doesn’t have one.”

Sitting in on the meeting was county Emergency Management Director Tom Collins. Collins proposed seeking funding from the Department of Homeland Security for emergency animal shelters. Such shelters could be used by the county on a temporary basis until permanent facilities are found.

“Wood County has received Homeland Security money for emergency sheltering,” remarked Collins. “They were able to purchase a lot of sheltering equipment for animals and even a trailer to haul it in. I’m going to check into that and see if I can get some equipment from (Homeland Security) that could be used on a day-to-day basis to help with the animal project.”

Wable was doubtful about seeking the funding. “A lot of times those grants are only available to counties that already have an animal shelter,” said Wable.

“This is not; this is Homeland Security money,” explained Collins. “People won’t go to an emergency shelter if they have a pet and can’t take the pet. FEMA knows that, and the Red Cross has proven it over and over.

Collins said the funding is there waiting to be requested. West Virginia receives a large amount of Homeland Security funding due to the state’s proximity to Washington, D.C. Should the nation’s capitol face a catastrophic attack, most of the evacuees would travel west into West Virginia.

“Most of West Virginia’s Homeland Security money comes based on the idea that if there is a major problem in D.C., they’re going to evacuate and come straight through West Virginia, and that’s 6 million people,” said Collins. “We have to justify our needs based on that. So if these people all came through they would all have pets. We can get funding for that, but it’s on an emergency basis. It’s something we can look into and I will look into it.”

In other news, the county’s Web site is now up and running announced County Assessor Jack Hayes.

“The county’s Web page is live; it’s working pretty good,” said Hayes. “Three links are working. We have the commission page up. We actually have the county page up and the assessor’s page. The menu page is working and (the EMA) is linked into it. It’s looking good and it’s changing daily.”

The Web site address is www.tylercountywv.com. The site is still a work in progress, but it will provide many resources, including access to deeds.