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Commissioner puts dog warden on the hot seat

By Carol McIntire

Carroll County Commissioners agreed last week to refund the fines and court costs of 43 residents who were issued a citation for not having a proper dog license this year.

Municipal Court Judge Gary Willen visited commissioners to discuss complaints his court received from residents who said they were not afforded the 72-hour grace period to purchase a dog license. The county implemented the policy a couple years ago.

Willen deferred to Commissioner Robert “Bob” Wirkner who said he researched minutes from commissioners meetings back four years to get to the bottom of the problem.

“It all goes back to 2010 when former County Commissioner Larry Garner said he felt there should be a 72-hour grace period for dog owners who are found not to have dog tags during random license checks conducted by county dog pound personnel.

The idea was put into the form of a motion, approved and included in the dog pound policy manual.

“We are still have problems with this policy this year,” Wirkner stated.  “We have 74 citizens who were issued tickets and not afforded the 72-hour grace period. Of those 74, 43 purchased their dog license as of July 9 and the remaining 31 have not purchased a license at all.”

He recommended, and fellow commissioners Jeff Ohler and Tom Wheaton agreed, to refund money to those who purchased their tags as of July 9.

Judge Willen said he did not have the amount of money it would cost the county to refund the fines and fees at his fingertips, but noted the 74 citations totaled $4,015, of which $2,386 went to the county and $1,629 to the state.

“I can get you those numbers for next week,” he said.

Wirkner said his concern was that the county dog warden did not follow the policy and procedures set forth by the county commissioners.

When asked if he had anything to say, Dog Warden Ken Ohler cited a portion of the policy manual that refers to responding to complaints and the 72-hour grace period.

“This section only refers to complaints and not random license checks,” he stated.

At that point, Wirkner looked at the dog warden and said, “You opened the door and we are going to go through it.”

Obviously agitated, Wirkner continued, “I was going to fix this today and move on, but you have opened the door. When I asked you about this yesterday, you said you had never read the entire manual. How can you expect your employees to follow the manual when you don’t know what is in it?

“You have a history of running the new commissioners who oversee your department through the ringer because you say,’ this is how we always did it’.”

As Wirkner continued to speak, Wheaton broke into the conversation and suggested what they were discussing was a personnel matter and should be handled in executive session.

Wirkner relented and agreed to discuss the matter behind closed doors, but not before he said, “it seems what commissioners say to (Ken) Ohler goes in one ear and out the other.”

In other business, commissioners:
-RESPONDED to a question from the media regarding the status of the relocation of the Genealogy Society into the former prosecutor’s office on Main St. and the ownership of the 2nd St. building that was offered to REX Energy as an office.

Commissioner Ohler said commissioners withdrew their offer to rent the building to Rex Energy and has indicated to the Carroll County Health Department they would like to transfer ownership of the building to the Health Department by the end of 2013.

-AMENDED the Department of Job and Family Services (DJFS) Prevention Retention and Contingency (PRC) Plan as requested by Director Kate Offenberger to include incentives to be paid to eligible Carroll County residents who obtain employment and continues to work at the job. Funding will be provided for the incentive by Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) funds. The amendment also includes a clothing and back to school program for 2013. The program will operate on a first-come, first-served basis and is open to families in Carroll County at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

-MET in executive session with Offenberger to discuss imminent litigation.

-RECEIVED the weekly dog pound report showing 21 dogs impounded, 15 tagged and five redeemed. There was one citation issued to the owner of a dog allowed to run free.

-PASSED a resolution to place a 1.7 mill renewal levy on the November election ballot for county highways.

-APPROVED road use maintenance agreements with the following companies: Chesapeake Energy to use a portion of Moccasin Rd. in August Twp. for access to the Hutchison well site; and Cardinal Gas Services to use portions of Avon, Apollo, Satin, Parma and Pacific roads in Washington and Fox townships for access to the Wattsville Gathering Line.

-APPROVED 21 right of way permits.

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