COVID heavily impacts PAWS and More, supervisors asked to keep funding level

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The COVID-19 pandemic dealt PAWS and More, the county’s animal rescue service, two heavy blows in 2020 with a decrease of $15,876 in boarding fees and $1,200 in pickup fees and a 65% decrease when their non-profit could not hold its largest fundraisers. Additionally, grant funding (for many services) dropped drastically, the Washington County Board of Supervisors were told on Tuesday, Jan. 19, when PAWS asked if the county would suspend the usual allocation formula and provide the $33,894 as it did last year.

In its letter of request, PAWS explained that “animal intake was down, but still significant (646 animals),” and owner surrenders were substantial as opposed to strays. In the past, the funding formula was animals with a daily boarding fee of $18 for seven days (state law for impounded animals, adoption or euthanasia). That calculates to 126 county animals for seven days, plus $1,200 reimbursement for 20 pickups at $60 per call, for $17,076. It is a decrease of $16,818 from last year, roughly half of the normal allocation.

In addition to county funds, grants and fundraiser revenues, PAWS also receives allocations from municipalities in the county for its annual budget that in 2019 was $224,315. Total funds this year are $193,261. The board will review the requests, as well as numerous other annual ones.

In another financial consideration, the board approved a contract, subject to review by the county attorney, for a Washington County Conservation Board plan for a tree harvest at Sockum Ridge Park as part of the forest management there. Discussions for the controlled growth plan started three years ago, explained Executive Director Zach Rozmus, who told the board “we had a very wet fall and now have a crop of acorns.” He added that warmer weather than usual also added to undergrowth.

The tree culling, which is detailed the contract, covers a 30-acre area and involves mainly white oak. Rozmus said that the entire forest floor of the park is covered with some growth and the plan will open up some of the areas.  Supervisor Jack Seward Jr. noted, though, that the long-term management plan dates to more than eight years ago. Bits will be sought for the contracted work.

The board also received quarterly reports from the treasurer, recorder and auditor, with a notation from the auditor that the $750 increase in the auditor’s receipts was from the Rita Hart Campaign that requested a recount of votes in Washington County. The recount was done by the auditor and two staff members over a 48-hour period and showed no change from the original tally.

The weekly COVID update noted that the county has not yet reached the 1B group for vaccinations.  1B is further essential workers and persons 75 years and older.  There also may be changes in vaccine allocations for the county, said Public Health Administrator Danielle Pettit-Majewski.  The latter relates to actual supplies in the nation as well possible residents obtaining vaccinations in another country.  Weekly updates will continue.

The board also discussed a proposed ordinance regarding wind energy development, deferring action to next week to allow review of provisions regarding property tax assessment prior to setting public hearing date, and deferred action regarding proposed changes to the county employee manual pending further employee and departments input.

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