The Questionable Doggie-Kitty Deal
Digging for the Truth
By: Pat Hunter
December 26, 2008
Winners and Losers
Lets examine the facts of the matter and who stood to gain?
Back in early January 2007, Loudon County Mayor Doyle Arp and his good friend Blount County Mayor Jerry Cunningham began an informal discussion to house Blount County strays at the Loudon County Animal shelter. Loudon County residents were led to believe that this was a temporary thing to help out some old friends but this "temporary" arrangement has been anything but that. Last Jan. 8, 2008, there was a ceremonial groundbreaking for the Blount County Animal shelter. Officials, public and press were informed that it could take Blount County 12-16 months to complete however, the good people of Loudon County were told a whale of a different story - this was a temporary arrangement.
After the old Loudon County Animal Shelter was burned down by arsonist, Loudon County animals were housed in trailers for 5-years but nobody bothered to help out Loudon County. Construction cost for the new 7,000-square-foot, 150 animal capacity, Loudon County Animal Shelter was $650,000, with $200,000 being paid by the county. Regarding the true cost to care for Blount County strays, the Loudon County Budget Committee has yet to calculate all costs of housing Blount County’s animals when they conveniently omitted related costs to the building, maintenance and repairs, and all other necessary operating costs for the Loudon County Shelter. Charging the correct cost was to be revisited by the Budget Committee if the agreement with Blount County was extended but the Budget Committee failed to do so. How’s that for giving Blount County a free ride at the expense of taxpayers and residents?
Blount County Commissioners ended their animal shelter arrangement with Maryville City. Over three thousand (3,000) stray animals are captured yearly and over 70 percent (2,100 plus) belong to Blount County. In June, 2006, Maryville City officials asked Blount County to double the $138,000 to provide animal control services. When Blount County refused to go along with Maryville’s $276,000 cost, Blount County Commissioners went to a month-to-month contract, which ended December 31, 2006. To compound the problem, Blount County Commission failed to budget for animal control services for the rest of FY 06-07 ending June 30, 2006.
Blount County was looking for a cheaper way out to address their stray animal dilemma. In solving Blount County’s animal problems, how fair was this to Loudon County residents and animals?
Blount County pays Loudon County $4,000 per month to house their strays in the new Loudon County Animal shelter, which is paid for with taxpayer funds and donations. The original "temporary" agreement of $4,000 per month between Loudon and Blount counties began on March 1, 2007 to June 30, 2007. The "temporary" agreement was based on a yearly intake of 2,000 animals, which gave Loudon County the “authority to alter intake number if deemed necessary right, to prevent overcrowding, or shelter staff limitations.” A story surfaced that Loudon County animals were euthanized to make room for Blount County strays; how fair is that to Loudon County animals waiting for adoption?
The cost of operating the Loudon County Animal shelter has increased greatly, this includes personnel cost! Since the end of fiscal year June 2006, the cost of personnel has almost doubled. This does not include insurance and benefits. The cost of an assistant director, social security and Medicare taxes is paid for by a non-profit group.
Recently, Blount County Mayor Jerry Cunningham was quoted as saying …"Hindsight is always 20/20. I wish we had kept the contract with Maryville. That looks like a bargain based on what I've seen, based on the past year. It's going to cost $500,000 to $600,000 to subsidize the operations of (the animal shelter)."
If Blount County's Mayor now thinks that $256,000 with Maryville City is a bargain, what about Blount County paying a paltry $48,000 to Loudon County's for 1- year's worth of housing and upkeep of strays? What is that called commissioners - how about not looking out for Loudon County taxpayers or plain old highway robbery?
What chance of adoption does a Loudon County animal have if it is subjected to overcrowding or euthanized to make room for another county’s strays?
This may be a great bargain or a steal for Blount County but this sweetheart deal has come at a great cost to Loudon County residents and animals. Ignoring this big problem, won't make it go away!
SOURCE: The Maryville Daily Times
By Joel Davis
of The Daily Times Staff
“Blount County may turn to
Maryville once again for animal control services.
County Commission Thursday authorized County Mayor Jerry Cunningham to discuss renewing its former contract with the city to provide animal control services for the county.
The mayor will also investigate the possibility that the city might manage the new county animal shelter once it is built.
Animal control has been a subject of controversy since the previous County Commission declined to continue funding a now-expired contract with Maryville for animal control services.
"It is a thorny issue," Cunningham said. "Hindsight is always 20/20. I wish we had kept the contract with Maryville. That looks like a bargain based on what I've seen, based on the past year. It's going to cost $500,000 to $600,000 to subsidize the operations of (the animal shelter)
The new animal shelter is being built on the 12-acre site, located behind the Boys and Girls Club, 241 Currie Ave. The estimated cost to build the facility as designed is $1.6 million.
The County Commission appropriated $430,000, which includes $80,000 in funds raised by the Smoky Mountain Animal Care Foundation and $350,000 in seed money that the commission authorized in 2007, that will allow the core of the facility to be built.
Commissioner Wendy Pitts Reeves urged caution. "I wouldn't want to do anything that even remotely hints at a shift in direction because there is way too much water under this bridge," she said.
The commission also approved an additional $11,000 to move Animal Control employee Teresa Cutshaw to full-time status.
Cutshaw will investigate and file reports on animal nuisance issues, which will be used to summon alleged violators of the animal control ordinance into court.
Commissioner Ron French made the motion to hire Cutshaw full-time after public comments from a county resident alleging a neighbor was running a puppy mill in his subdivision. All commissioners present voted yes.
"This problem is not going to go away by ignoring it," French said. "... We've got to do something to give these people some relief."