Commissioners speak out on animal shelter funding

True Friends Animal Welfare Center put out a call for action on social media last week after the adoption center received no answers from the county commissioners as to why the shelter would not be receiving an allocation this year.

The commissioners allocated $50,000 in 2020 and 2021 from the county budget to True Friends.

The True Friends post claimed that after learning they would not receive county funds this year the organization had “repeatedly requested a written explanation from Commissioners Hall, Herschel and Arnold as to why we were rejected. Our requests were in the form of phone calls directly to Commissioners and a certified letter to ensure they received our request. Unfortunately they have not responded.”

At the Wednesday, May 11 meeting, the commissioners addressed the social media post and clarified their position.

Since the commissioners’ meeting, the elected officials have scheduled a meeting with representatives from  True Friends.

Commissioner Alan Hall said the social media post from True Friends was both “misleading and untrue.”

He said that about three years ago, True Friends board members made a presentation to the commissioners regarding the financial costs of the running the shelter. Hall confirmed that in 2020 and 2021 the shelter received $50,000 in both those years from the county.

The Pennsylvania County Code gives counties the ability to provide that funding. The code states: “The board of commissioners may appropriate moneys toward the maintenance of any organization or society, incorporated under the laws of this Commonwealth, for the prevention of cruelty to animals and which, for a period of at least two years prior to the making of such appropriation, shall have been engaged in carrying out the purposes of its incorporation, in whole or in part, within said county.”

Hall said that this year the county is “not as solvent as we always were,” noting county employees’ salaries and benefits increased $1.5 million.

“It’s not our money to spend,” added Commissioner Judith Herschel. She said information the commissioners received years ago justified the allocation. But, she said, happenings in the past year made her uncomfortable with the allocation request.

The commissioners said they were not sure the organization was meeting the needs of the public.

As an example, Herschel said another organization stepped up to help with a feral cat issue in one borough.

Commissioner Elizabeth Arnold noted that the organization’s largest fundraiser, Woofstock,” had been held at Salt Springs Park until the flood damage in 2018 forced the group to change sites. The event was moved to a park in Wyoming County.

Arnold said True Friends was awarded $7,000 in Room Tax grant money to be utilized for marketing the Woofstock event and promoting tourism in Susquehanna County, with the promise from the organization that it would return to the county in 2021. Instead, Arnold said, the event was again held in Wyoming County and the Room Tax funds were not returned to the Endless Mountains Visitors Bureau as had been requested.

Room Tax grants are administered by the Endless Mountains Visitors Bureau, which serves to promote tourism in Susquehanna, Sullivan and Wyoming counties. The grants are generated from hotel taxes collected, and 30 percent of hotel room tax is distributed through the program.

“That they moved the location after receiving the grant is concerning,” Arnold said.

Hall said True Friends called the county about one month ago asking about the funding. “Where’s our check? You owe us $50,000,” he said he heard from the organization. “We don’t owe anything. It is not budgeted. The code doesn’t tell us we have to do it.”

He also said he has heard complaints about the shelter not being open and not letting people in.

But, he added, “People need to continue to help True Friends,” and said that all three county commissioners were animal lovers.

Agenda items approved by the commissioners include:

*contract with Zito Business for dedicated internet equipment and access at the county jail and recycling center, at a cost of $1,850 for installation and $305.32 per month of access;

*agreement with Harris Local Government for printing of ROC mailers for delinquent tax billed, at a cost for 2022 of $1,770;

*contract with Thomas J. Weber for consulting services for the Susquehanna County Correctional Facility, effective June 1 – Dec. 31, 2025, at a cost not to exceed $15,000 for consulting and $1,825 for travel expenses;

*acknowledged the transfer of Wesley Campbell from the position of Establishment Specialist/Court Liaison to the position of Assistant Director of Domestic Relations;

*hired Christopher Zabrowski to the position of part-time IT technician;

*hired Julie Johnson as the county’s Director of Human Resources;

*acknowledged, with regret, the resignation of Deputy Sheriff Janniel DeJesus, effective May 19.

*proclaimed May 15-21 s Emergency Medical Services Week in Susquehanna County.

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