Aimed at “stopping the rumor mill” Humane Society of Warren County (HSWC) president Ellen Aders called an “open house” at the “What Matters Open Space” meeting place on East Main Street on August 14. The “open house’ designation was utilized to allow everyone, including non-members, to listen or ask questions about the current state of the Julia Wagner Animal Shelter and the county humane society that oversees its operations.
Rumors were voiced: “The shelter is dirty and falling apart.”
“Not true,” said Aders, taking the opportunity to thank staff for pulling together and doing their jobs in the wake of the resignation of Executive Director Alyssa Ellison after just six months on the job.
Aders said she and members of the board had been to the shelter just that day to check on it and it was “fresh and clean.”
Another rumor: The shelter no longer accepts homeless horses.
“We’ll check on that one,” said Aders, who was unaware of such a policy.
Yet another rumor: The board is in disarray.
“Untrue,” said Aders. “We’re all here, aren’t we? We are not a divided board as has been alleged.” Eight board members nodded approval. Aders announced nominations were being taken to fill three vacancies by September 3.
Aders introduced past-President Amy Thurman, who recently accepted an invitation to re-join the board. She is now serving as board secretary.
There were questions as to why the highly successful fundraiser Waggin’ for Dragon’s boat race on the Shenandoah River was cancelled this year. That cancellation of the organization’s most profitable fundraising event could result in as much as $50,000 in lost income, sinking shelter operations for the year “into the red.”
There was no simple answer for this one. Blame was placed both on funds not being immediately available from a major sponsor and the transition from one executive director to another, thereby causing deadlines to be missed.
“But it will be back next year … and we’re not in dire straits (regarding finances),” Aders said, promising four upcoming fundraisers this year.
A long-time member complained that a spay/neuter program for cats she ran at her own expense at the shelter had been either discouraged or terminated by staff, no reason given. Aders promised to look into it, signaling it probably would be restored if as described.
In response to a question about the board’s instituting a common annual renewal month (October) for memberships at its last meeting, Treasurer Michelle Kosiorek provided a written answer to the question following the meeting.
“Since membership renewal notices haven’t gone out since March or April (no explanation given) our intention is to extend the expiry date (of membership) to October 18, 2018, for any memberships expiring before this October. Then we will prorate memberships coming due starting in November 2018 until October 2019. By October 2019, everyone will be on the same renewal cycle,” Kosiorek explained.
At this time, there are some 400 members of the Humane Society. Only about 30 people attended the “open house” convened at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
There was spirited debate on the policy that keeps board meetings closed to society members. This was settled, at least for the time being, when Secretary Thurman and Aders said minutes of these meetings were available for perusal at the shelter and, no, there was no plan to put them into wide distribution. Time and cost were the apparent reasons.
Scheduled for one hour, the meeting ran over by only 10 minutes with Aders pleading to “stop the rumor mill” and let her or individual board members know of future concerns.
Former board member Jennifer Condon closed with a plea to “make the shelter our number one priority” echoing Thurman’s earlier comment that “we’re all on the same team” in providing shelter and best future options for animals in need.
(The writer is a former president of the HSWC board)