Support offered for ex-dog warden

CADIZ A group of emotional area residents were in attendance to offer their support for the former Harrison County dog warden at the commissioners’ meeting Wednesday morning.

Several spokespersons offered their continuing support for Tina DeWalt and voiced questions and complaints about the handling of the issue by board members.

Board chairman Don Bethel announced that after reviewing 22 applications, the decision had been made to hire John Birney and Jeff Campbell to fill the two part-time posts.

Bethel thanked all of the applicants and stated that, after consultation with the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department and careful review of applicants to insure they met the two most important criteria set forth by the board, a difficult decision had been reached.

“It is going to be a team effort, and we felt it was essential that the two new part-time wardens would be compatible,” Bethel stated. “This is not about the current dog warden. It is about better serving the public, and we felt this move was in the best interest of the county.

“We do want to thank Ms. DeWalt for her past service. We know her heart was in the right place,” Bethel added. “She was considered for the second position, but we felt that there was a potential for conflict, and again, this has to be a compatible partner for the first warden.”

Addressing questions from Sandra Manbeck, Bethel speaking on behalf of all three commissioners explained that the dog wardens will be sharing the single vehicle and would be utilizing a tranquilizer gun in an effort to humanely deal with certain calls and therefore would be required to have weapons certification.

Bethel also added that the requirement for crisis management was important to avoid escalating what are often emotional and potentially volatile situations.

Manbeck asked if the county intended to return to the 72-hour policy for dogs in the pound. “Absolutely not. We are not placing any limit on the time, and we’re going to continue to try and get every dog adopted.

“There is no intention of putting any dog down,” Bethel cautioned. “However that is part of the equation. It is unfortunate, and I do not want to think in those negative terms. I can assure you that we will continue to welcome volunteers and their help in making every effort to adopt every dog.”

Dog pound volunteer Beth Roski spoke, stating that she donates her time to help care for the animals in the pound. “I have brought supplies to the pound each Friday, supplying the pound with all the cleaning supplies, all new bowls and rawhide bones.”

Roski said it has taken upwards of 3 months to adopt dogs at the pound, asking for assurances that the policy will not change.

Bethel thanked her for her support and addressed allegations that the board had not met with DeWalt concerning the changes.

Bethel stated that it would be the wrong forum to discuss the personnel issues and again assured Roski that the board had met on several occasions with DeWalt prior to taking action.

“You are trying to make this about the dog warden, but I feel this is about better serving the public. I am not saying all the issues were about performance; there were other issues that I do not feel are appropriate to talk about in public.”

Bethel also told the group that they were not against turning the pound into a shelter but the funding would have to come from the public. “We welcome any proposals and will consider them if funding is made available.”

The supporters of DeWalt questioned as to when the decision had been made to “get rid” of the current dog warden.

Joyce Klingler, agent for the Harrison County Concerned Citizens Organization, spoke in defense of the board. “I regularly attend these meetings and keep up with the news in the county through social media, and two weeks ago, when they announced their plans during the meeting, was the first time I had heard of the proposal.

“I do not feel that there was a plot to get rid of the dog catcher. I don’t feel these three gentleman would do that.” Klingler added. “They are men of integrity, and I do not feel they would do that.”

The new wardens will start at their new posts today and will seek assistance from bordering counties for training.

“It is our understanding that the assistant dog warden has found other employment,” Bethel informed. “We had never intended for the assistant to be replaced, and we will address that vacancy when official notification is given.”

Scott Blackburn of the Harrison County Department of Job and Family Services told the board that long-time employee Ed Jackson had retired effective Dec. 28 and that his agency would be filling the vacant position internally and would review the personnel in the department after the shift to determine of any new hiring would take place.

The board approved a road use agreement presented by Doug Crabtree representing the Engineer’s office. Agreement 2-13 with Hess Ohio Development LLC for 0.5 miles of CR 38 to allow access the Cadiz B well site.

Chris Jacobs, director of the Carroll-Columbiana-Harrison Solid Waste District, announced to the board that starting on Feb. 1, there will be some new changes to recycling in Harrison County.

The district is converting most of the recycling containers from the existing large “roll-off” containers to smaller recycling containers that will be emptied on a regular schedule. Most drop-off recycling sites in Harrison County will be getting several of the new recycling containers. These new containers have two large lids on the top of the container and smaller sliding doors on both sides of the container. The sliding doors on the sides of the container are easy to reach from the ground and are easy to open. Freeport and New Athens will continue to have the existing larger containers.

“This change will help us make sure that there is room in the containers when you go to recycle and also allow us to be more efficient,” says Jacobs. “Right now, we have to check the roll-offs every week and schedule them to be switched when they’re full. With the new containers, they will be emptied on a set day every week.

“In addition to the new containers, all the recyclables can be mixed together in the same container after Feb. 1. This means that you can mix your paper products with your cans and bottles, for example,” says Jacobs. “You won’t need to separate your recyclables anymore.”

The district’s contractor will be labeling all the containers with new labels showing the materials that can be put in the recycling containers. The new labels include pictures of the acceptable materials to make it easier to understand what can go in the bin. The contractor installed an automated recycling facility that can separate cans and plastic containers by material. There is still some hand-sorting of paper products like cardboard and newspaper.

The district would also like to remind residents to break down (flatten) boxes before recycling them in the container. “When boxes are not flattened, the containers get full very quickly,” says Jacobs. “Even with the new containers, we don’t want to have them overflowing because boxes aren’t flattened. All it takes is about 10 unflattened boxes to fill a container to the point where no one else can use it.”

Palmer may be reached at