Animal shelter prepares for closure
Saturday is clean-up day at the Fayette County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals shelter in North Union Township. And, it also will be the end of an entity that began 90 years ago.
"I researched that myself," said former society president Ed Trees. "When it was organized, there were some of the most prominent names in the area involved with this. I feel really bad that it's closing while I'm on the board."
Trees had served as president until resigning from the position a few months ago. Joseph Eckman, vice president, has taken over as head of the group.
"Friday will be the last day we will be open," Eckman said. "Saturday, our people will come in and clean up the building to get ready to close it down."
Eckman stressed that although the shelter will close, the SPCA's board of directors will remain intact for the time being.
"We are waiting for the decision of (Fayette County President Judge William J. Franks) on our appeal to the award on the lawsuit," Eckman said. "Depending on how that comes out will determine just what the future of the shelter will be."
Eckman said it might be possible to resume operations if the group got a favorable decision from the court.
"If not, we will have to close forever," he said. "We really would like to continue the work."
Eckman said his board had met John Tabaj, who brought suit against the SPCA for invasion of privacy and malicious prosecution. As a result of the suit, a $96,000 judgment was awarded against the society.
"Mr. Tabaj was a real gentleman when we met," Eckman said. "He has been during this entire thing."
At this point, said board member Robert Cerjanec, the group is not considering bankruptcy as was explored previously.
"It would just cost us more money," he said. "We hope to stay with this thing until the end and settle it without going into bankruptcy."
There had been a rumor the board might consider turning over the property along Rankin Air Shaft Road where the shelter is located to Tabaj as payment for the judgment. However, there is some confusion about that.
"I'm not sure if we can do that," Eckman said. "I, myself, am not sure who owns the property. I heard it would be taken over by the county if we no longer existed."
Eckman noted that Fayette County, through grants, had provided trucks for the organization. It also pays for tires and gasoline, he said.
"There are two things that really make me feel bad," Trees said. "First, there will be no one to care for the animals. And 14 good people will be losing their jobs. They have done a really good job for us. They are good people."
In addition to Trees, Eckman and Cerjanec, serving on the board are Susan Carlson Lee, Ed Bilek, Charles Hunt, Joe Kristobak, Phil Mahoney, John Oris, Jeanne Sheperd and Robert Washabaugh. Olinda Beatty is the shelter manager.