During Monday’s regular meeting of the Pittsburg County Commissioners, Michelle Denton, a concerned Pittsburg County Citizen, had questions regarding the Pittsburg County Animal Shelter.
Denton was listed on Monday’s agenda under “County Business” and was set to discuss the shelter. Prior to the meeting, the McAlester News-Capital asked Denton if she was a shelter employee. “I’d like to be. It looks like it’s a pretty cushy job,” Denton said, as she pointed to some papers in her hands. “No really. I don’t want to work there. But I want to find out if this is all true,” Denton said, this time pointing to a copy of the July 15 edition of the News-Capital which included an article titled “Budget OK’s $500k for animal shelter,” a story which outlined the Pittsburg County Animal Shelter financial budget.
First, Denton questioned the commissioners regarding the Animal Shelter’s hours of operation. She said the hours the shelter is currently open to the public make it difficult for someone working a regular job (Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) to visit the shelter and adopt a pet.
Pittsburg County Commissioner Kevin Smith answered this concern by saying that the shelter is opened to the public on Saturdays. Per the shelter’s website, Saturday hours of operation are from 10 a.m. to noon. The shelter is also open to the public Tuesdays through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Denton then questioned the commissioners regarding 70 percent of the shelter’s budget paying for shelter employees and she questioned the number of staff members employed by the shelter. “What are the employees at the shelter doing? I’d like to see what they do for eight hours. We are way over-staffed for what we are doing,” Denton said. Then she said that less employees are needed and the people who are working at the shelter should be made useful. Then Denton said that prisoners from the jail should be put to work at the shelter. “Get some prisoners in there working,” she said.
In response to these concerns, Smith said, “I will personally take you to the shelter and let you see what the employees do all day.”
Denton cut in and said, “I would love to.”
Smith continued and said that the portion of the budget that includes staffing also includes workman’s compensation, social security and benefits. “It looks like a really big figure. It is the benefit package that makes it look bigger than it actually is.” Smith also said that the Pittsburg County Animal Shelter’s staffing budget is no different than other animal shelter’s across the state. Typically, Smith said, two-thirds of the shelter’s budget will go toward staffing. Smith also said that employees at the shelter are paid on the same pay scale as all county employees.
Denton also questioned the entire Animal Shelter budget in general. Why are we budgeting so much money for the shelter when we need to fix the roads in the county, she asked.
The money allotted for the Animal Shelter is “tax dollars set up to use at the shelter only,” Smith explained. “That money can’t be taken away from the shelter and used on roads.”
Denton questioned the commissioners regarding their decision to hire Sandra Hefley as the shelter’s director. “I would like to know the statistics with the previous director (Tracy Berg-Dalmont) and what they are now. How many animals were taken in before and how many now? How many animals were adopted out and how many now? How many animals were euthanized and how many now?” Denton asked. “...And why isn’t there any money in the budget for the new director’s training.”
Simultaneously, all three county commissioners said, “There is.”
Smith continued and said there is money in the budget for Hefley’s training, and it is listed under the travel expense section of the budget. Smith also said that the statistics haven’t changed since Hefley has been employed as acting director, and now as actual director of the shelter. The first week it opened, the intake numbers were low, Smith said. Then in the next 90 days they were very high. Then the numbers leveled out. Except for slight fluctuation in the numbers, they have remained steady, Smith said. And as for number of animals euthanized, Smith said the shelter euthanizes approximately 70 percent of the animals taken in at the shelter.
Denton began to speak again and Commission Chairman Gene Rogers said, “You’ve had 20 minutes and you’ve said the same thing over and over and over. Now this is over.”
Denton said, “Okay.” Then she thanked the commissioners for hearing what she had to say.
Also during the meeting, commissioners unanimously approved the following agenda items:
The Pittsburg County Commissioners meet every Monday at 9 a.m. in the County Commissioner’s conference room at the Pittsburg County Courthouse at 115 E. Carl Albert Parkway. The meetings are open to the public.
Contact Rachel Petersen at email@example.com.
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