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Guilford County Animal Shelter Saga Continues: Operations Manager Resigns Over Poor Facility and Staffing

At Thursday's Commissioners meeting, Shelter Operations Manager Darryl Kosciak said a new shelter would not thrive without more employees to help run it.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — In what seems like a never-ending saga of ups and downs for the Guilford County Animal Shelter, Operations Manager Darryl Kosciak has resigned.

At Thursday's Commissioners meeting, Kosciak was the first speaker from the audience, even though the item related to the animal shelter on the agenda was postponed to a meeting next month. He criticized the county's efforts, or lack thereof, to support the shelter and said it was the reason behind his resignation.

"I'll be leaving here at the beginning of next week, due in large part to the lack of support and lack of positions provided by the County Manager," Kosciak said to commissioners.

According to County Commissioner Justin Conrad says he believes Kosciak's concerns could've been addressed before he resigned, as Conrad says he meets "regularly" with Shelter Director Jorge Ortega.

"It's obviously frustrating hearing for the first time those type of disappointments," Conrad told WFMY over the phone. "I certainly had not heard his concerns raised in that manner."

Conrad also pointed out since Kosciak was an official, he should've been aware that, at an earlier work session, Conrad and Ortega discussed funding two new positions, even though the shelter recommended six, as a "pat on the back" for Ortega's work and dedication to the shelter.

"I disagree that we didn't address staffing issues," the commissioner said. "We did end up adding two positions.

The latest state inspection in May shows the Guilford County Animal Shelter was in compliance and had a "sufficient number of employees." 

Kosciak urged commissioners and county leaders to visit the shelter and speak with employees "about what they're facing every single day from what they're having to deal with."

Shelter volunteer and advocate, Jessica Mashburn, says she's been visiting the shelter since April several times a week and sees how staff and volunteers spread themselves thin.

"Anyone could come out here on any given day and you would observe a staff member or volunteer doing the job of three to four people," Mashburn said. "They do the absolute best they can with the facility that they have."

Conrad says, as a commissioner, it is frustrating to not see the work the county has been doing to make the shelter a better place. He says the county has 

"We're talking about a substantially dated facility, we've recognized that and made it one of our four priority projects and we funded it," he said. "It's a priority and it's disappointing from my perspective to not have somebody recognize that."

Another of Kosciak's concerns regarding the new facility is the lack of staff to keep it running smoothly.

"There has to be a staffing up plan for two to three years," Kosciak told commissioners. "We're talking double-digit additional employees, and if not, that shiny new building is not going to stay shiny for long."

Last October, county commissioners allocated close to $15 million for the new shelter. On Monday, Jorge Ortega, Guilford County Animal Shelter director, spoke to commissioners in a work session meeting to discuss updates on the new shelter.

Ortega says the size of the new building was recently adjusted by planners, so that it fits both the needs and the allocated budget for the shelter. The initial design had a 407-animal capacity, while the latest design reduces the capacity to 335. The shelter’s current West Wendover Avenue location has a 620 capacity.

“We presented a certain-sized facility with a certain size of animal holding capacity at that time,” Ortega said. “Today, if we were going to go build that shelter, we would not be able to meet that size facility based on the amount of money that’s been budgeted by the commissioners.”

Ortega acknowledged the disappointment from many community members after reports about the change is design and holding capacity compared to the original design and current shelter. In response, he pointed out the importance of reducing animal intake through spay and neuter, microchipping, fostering and responsible adoption because the higher the number of animals in holding, the less attention and care they’re able to give each animal.

“Our facility, even though it’s licensed to house 620 animals, we should not wait to get to 620,” Ortega explained. “What we need to focus on as a community is keeping the animals from coming into the shelter.”

Ortega added he believes the new facility will attract more visitors and volunteers.

“Our building has to be a destination,” he said. “If we don’t increase our visitors, we won’t increase our adoptions or our positive outcomes.”

According to Ortega, the design is halfway completed, and explained that there are still many adjustments that could be made, so this design and size is not set in stone

The shelter will request commissioners to approve spending $649,000 dollars out of its already funded shelter replacement project budget. The cost is to cover additional architecture and design services from PNP Design Group, the group planning and designing a new animal shelter.

The next Guilford County Board of Commissioners meeting is slated for Thursday, July 18.