Carbon County will not respond to any dog calls in Mahoning Township until further notice, officials say.
During the county commissioners' meeting on Thursday, the board unanimously voted to cease all services to the township until the Mahoning Township supervisors pay the 2013 assessment fee for dog shelter operations.
Mahoning Township has not paid the $693 annual fee for either 2012 or 2013, Commissioner Thomas J. Gerhard reported.
The motion came after a lengthy discussion regarding the need to have municipalities and the county work together to keep these types of programs running.
Commissioner Wayne Nothstein, chairman, explained that the county sent out letters to all the municipalities earlier this year requesting they pay a fee based on per capita for the operation of the animal shelter.
"Most of the municipalities have paid that fee and we appreciate that; however there are two municipalities that have not paid," Nothstein said. "The total fees don't nearly offset the costs of the operation at the shelter."
He said that the county has been accused of not responding to calls and picking up dogs that were reported in the area.
"People have to realize and understand that if we get a call that there is a dog wandering around in an area, we can only spend so much time searching for these dogs," Nothstein said, adding that the shelter currently only has one full-time employee and one part-time employee. "What we asked the municipalities was to help with these costs."
Gerhard said that reason for ceasing operations in this municipality is because Mahoning Township supervisors have claimed that the county has not provided services relative to dogs in the area.
"I know for a fact that we responded to six dogs that were dropped off at Walmart alone," he said, adding that there were also several dogs running loose along Route 443 in Mahoning that were also picked up by the county. "We know for a fact we are picking up dogs in Mahoning Township."
Nothstein then spoke about the shelter budget, which was covered in the 2013 spending plan until June with the hopes of a nonprofit organization taking over operations July 1. That never materialized.
"I think the three of us, we are all committed to keeping that operation going and have been funding it," he said.
Commissioner William O'Gurek added that the board is working hard to make sure the shelter stays open.
"We are working hard but it's the people in the trenches like Tom Connors (the dog warden) who deserve the credit," he said. "Mahoning Township is not working together in that they refuse to pay the annual assessment and contend that we're not providing a service.
"I think the message needs to go out to the people of Mahoning that their supervisors are not cooperating and not paying their assessment," O'Gurek continued. "It puzzles me how a municipality like Mahoning, that has received so much from this board of commissioners and prior boards, refuses to cooperate."
He pointed out that over the last eight years, the county has given nearly $400,000 to Mahoning in the form of $260,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds, $100,000 for the traffic light at Normal Square along Route 443, and through the countywide narrowband radio project.
"We've been trying and trying and trying to help the people at Mahoning Township to the tune of $360,000 and it bothers me that the Mahoning Township supervisors, one, are bold enough to say we're not providing a service without even finding the facts and, two, refuses to pay something like $600, which is nominal."
Nothstein added to O'Gurek's thoughts, saying that all municipalities and the county need to work together for the greater good of the residents.
"The county is providing many services to the municipalities that are their responsibilities also," he said. "It's all a matter of working together and sharing expenses. I do have a problem with the lack of cooperation sometimes because we're in this together.
"These municipalities a lot of time expect us to spend the funds because they don't want to raise taxes; well I don't want to raise taxes either. None of us do ... but if you want the services someone has to pay and I think we're making the right decision. If you want a service then we all share the cost."
The commissioners stated that they will continue operations in Banks Township, the other municipality that has not yet paid the assessment fee. Banks' fee is $100.
They pointed out that the difference with the two municipalities is this is Banks first time not paying, and believe it to be an oversight, which was going to be addressed later Thursday; while Mahoning indicated to the commissioners that they are not paying the fee because they believe the county is not providing the service.
Attempts to reach Mahoning Township supervisors for comment were unsuccessful as of press time.
In a related matter, Gerhard commended Connors for his efforts at the shelter, which currently has 17 dogs up for adoption.
He also announced that there will be representatives from the shelter at Pet Store Universe, 450 Interchange Road, Suite 101, in Lehighton, on Saturday providing information on what the shelter does to help the dogs and its adoption policy.