New dog license fee approved

STEUBENVILLE – Jefferson County commissioners on Thursday adopted a state-mandated fee schedule for dog licenses.

The state now allows dog owners to buy licenses for one or three years or for the life of the dog.

Sally Wehr, Jefferson County Humane Society president, asked the commissioners to increase the fees for dog licenses. Proceeds from the dog licenses go to support operations at the county’s animal shelter. The commissioners and the humane society recently adopted a working agreement for operations at the shelter.

The county charges $10 a year for a dog license. Wehr said that is the lowest charged in the state, with only about four counties charging $10. She wanted the fee increased to $12. The county got $45,899 last year in proceeds from dog licenses, according to the county auditor’s office,

The state’s new license schedule calls for a three-year license to cost three times the cost of a one-year license. The lifetime license costs 10 times the one-year license.

Commissioners kept the one-year license at $10 but only if the pet owner can prove the dog has been spayed or neutered. Commissioners did approve Wehr’s suggestion the county charge $20 for a one-year license if the dog hasn’t been fixed.

The county auditor’s office reported the pet owner will have to provide proof of the dog being spayed or neutered. Exceptions are if a dog is a show dog or a veterinarian states the procedure can’t be done for medical reasons.

The county auditor’s office also reported there could be fraud problems with the lifetime license because a dog owner could put the license on another dog.

County Commissioner Thomas Graham said he was against raising the dog license fee for dogs that have been neutered or spayed. He said he promised taxes wouldn’t be raised when the new dog shelter was built several years ago.

County Commissioner Tom Gentile said a responsible dog owner would have paid the increase, and county Commissioner David Maple said the proposed $2 increase wouldn’t be a significant increase in revenue.

Commissioners can evaluate the cost of dog licenses once a year.

Wehr also gave the commissioners an update on operations at the animal shelter.

She said the humane society was able to buy 10 Kuranda beds for dogs, which are elevated off the ground and easy to clean.

A veterinarian technician also is coming to the shelter once a week for vaccinations of all dogs and for medical assistance. The shelter also is continuing its spay and neuter program for dogs. Wehr said the goal is to get all dogs spayed and neutered prior to adoption.

The shelter also is conducting dog training classes and providing adoption packages for information on how to integrate a new dog into the home. Wehr said.

The shelter had been adopting an average of about 20 dogs per month. The number increased to 43 in June and 66 in July since the county humane society has been helping with the animal shelter operations.

The number of dogs euthanized increased in July because there were several puppies taken in that had parvo, a contagious disease that has a high mortality rate. She also said there were several dogs taken to the shelter from a home in Amsterdam that were aggressive and couldn’t be adopted.

Graham commended the county humane society for its work at the animal shelter.

“It is still growing and evolving,” Wehr said.

Commissioners also agreed in principle to an opt-in electric aggregation program for residents in unincorporated areas of the county. Representatives of Buckeye Energy Brokers were asked to come back with a proposal for the opt-in aggregation program in which the company will negotiate a lower electric rate for residents and then the residents can sign up for the rate. Company representatives said it could save residents $150 to $200 a year on their electric bills.

The commissioners were against putting an opt-out program on the ballot for residents to approve, saying they didn’t feel comfortable making that decision for residents. Under that program, residents would have to sign papers not to participate or they would automatically be enrolled.

Commissioners will seek a legal opinion from the county prosecutor’s office on the program.

Commissioners also agreed to set aside $200,000 for the construction of the new road at the county’s industrial park off county Road 43, Wintersville.

Maple said the county has received a matching grant of up to $200,000 from the state for the road, which is expected to cost $100,000. Maple said the county could get credit for in-kind services, such as engineering help, to lower the matching cost down to about $50,000.

Commissioners also:

– Received a request from county Coroner Dr. Michael Scarpone for an additional $10,000 in funding due to an increase in the number of autopsies due to homicide or unnatural deaths and lab tests for drug overdoses. There have been five homicides in Steubenville so far this year.

Commissioners agreed to fund an additional $3,800, and will meet with Scarpone to further discuss the financial needs.

– Agreed to advertise for bids for a bridge replacement on Springfield Township Road 278. The engineer’s estimate is $92,000.

– Were informed by the state of a $71,779 decrease in funding for the Community Housing Improvement Program administered through the county’s Regional Planning Commission. Domenick Mucci, regional planning commission director, said the county had received $354,000 for the program.