By DAVID DAVIS Managing Editor
A vote by the Cleveland City Council could force the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office to respond to animal control complaints outside the corporate boundaries of the city.
Council members Monday voted 4-3 to reject the latest offer from Bradley County.
As of July 1, animals only from the city will be accepted into the Cleveland Animal Shelter. Animals delivered to the shelter will not be accepted from Bradley County residents who live outside the city limits and animal control officers will stop at the corporate limits of Cleveland.
City staff also reported the resignations of Animal Shelter Advisory Board members Carla Boudrot and Dr. John Owens. County representatives Beth Foster and Sandy Turner are no longer eligible since it is now a city-only shelter. The remaining board members are Teresa Anderson, Kathy Kinder and Dr. Robert Taylor.
In addition, two animal shelter employees will be transferred to the Public Works Department.
“They can expect less money, but at least they’ll still have a job,” City Manager Janice Casteel said.
Councilman Bill Estes said he would vote no on an impromptu motion by At-Large Councilman Richard Banks. Banks proposed accepting the county’s latest offer for one year. Under that resolution, the county would have paid the city $167,139 for one year to accept drop-offs from county residents.
Estes said the one-year contract “was a bad deal and we need to end it.”
Banks, At-Large Councilman George Poe and Councilman Dale Hughes, 5th District, voted yes. Voting in the majority were Council members Charlie McKenzie, 1st District; Estes, 2nd District; Vice Mayor Johnson, 3rd District; and David May, 4th District; who voted no.
After the motion failed, Banks said the 911 Center should be notified that operators will have to call the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office.
“If a county resident comes to the shelter, we do not take those animals, is that correct?” Mayor Tom Rowland asked.
“And if an animal rescuer who lives in the city comes to the shelter with animals, we’re going to have to find out where the animals came from,” Casteel said.
“We’re really messing up our goal of a no-kill shelter,” the mayor said.
“I think we’re doing just the opposite,” Estes replied.
May said he thought the County Commission made its position clear.
Banks said, “I believe it needs to be said that we’ve done everything in the world we can do to promote no-kill and to promote cooperation with the county in something as essential as animal control. They have said no to everything.”
Banks suggested all of the animal supporters go to the next Commission meeting Monday at 7 p.m.
“Go to the County Commission and see what they’re going to do to keep innocent animals from being euthanized and abused in the county,” Banks said.
Rowland said, “It’s not our fault. It’s a sad day for animals, for the total community.”
“It could be a good day for animals if Bradley County steps up and does what it’s supposed to do,” Estes said.
The city and county began public discussions of the animal control contract in late February after Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis notified the city of its intent to terminate the animal control contract.
Davis wrote in the letter that he welcomes the opportunity to discuss options for entering into a new contract for animal control services that will be satisfactory to both parties.
The Council responded at the end of March stating the city would continue providing all of Bradley County with an animal shelter and provide for the needs of animals needing protection and adoption, and would continue to move toward being a no-kill city.
In 2012, there were 1,687 animals from within the city and 3,114 animals from the county for a total of 4,801. Animal control officers responded to a total of 7,888 calls, of which 3,867 were in the city and 4,021 in the county. Overall, 56.2 percent of the animals and calls came from the county.
The city intended to divide the shares based on the proposed 2014 operating budget of $649,007 plus depreciation costs, which raised the amount to $663,174. After sales, fees and fines of $31,433 the net operating cost was estimated at $631,741. The county’s share would be 56.2 percent or $355,038.
The county’s offer was based on the previous year’s operating budget of $548,043. Under that proposal, the county share would be $298,455. The difference between the two proposals was the county would pay $56,583 less.
County hears concerns
By JOYANNA WEBER Banner Staff Writer
A resident expressed concern to the Bradley County Commission that changes to the animal control contract with the city will leave residents with no one to call in a wildlife emergency.
Teresa Thigpen said Monday the animal control officers do a lot more than just pick up strays.
“Most people are not aware of what those services are that we have,” Thigpen said. “It’s not just about dogs or picking up stray dogs. Our officers handle a great many things. They handle emergency calls on a daily basis with the city and the county.”
Thigpen, who said her husband works for Cleveland Animal Control, asked the Commission to reconsider its vote to eliminate animal pickup outside the city limits.
The Commission proposed eliminating the animal control pickup of animals outside the city limits as a way to save $200,000 on an animal control contract. The county would have retained the partnership for the animal shelter and animals could still have been dropped off there, had the contract been accepted by the city.
In a telephone interview after the meeting, Bradley County Commission Chairman Louie Alford said the Commission had already voted on the issue and was waiting to see if the Cleveland City Council would agree. However, the city did not agree and no animals from the county will be accepted at the shelter.
Thigpen listed animals breaking out of fences, snakes under an indoor dresser and a fox biting someone as calls that had been responded to outside the city limits within the past two weeks.
She said if the animal control officers no longer respond, it is uncertain who would be able to handle such incidents.
Alford said there are companies that handle wildlife removal that could be called in these situations.
Eliminating animal control calls to the county outside the city limits will put a strain on the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office, which people will call when animal control is no longer an option, according to Thigpen.
She said there is a lot of followup and paperwork involved with each call.
Thigpen said animal control officers are often dispatched by Bradley County 911 to deal with wildlife or animal-related emergencies. She said she is also concerned with the fate of these animals if animal control officers no longer pick them up.
The number of calls animal control officers respond to in the county has not been stated in the animal contract discussions. Statistics on the number of emergency or wildlife-related calls responded to outside the city were not available as of press time today.
Alford said he hoped the new contract with the city would include more data gathering and reporting to the County Commission on the level of service.
Thigpen encouraged others who are concerned about the issue to contact their county commissioner. Contact information for each commissioner can be found on the Bradley County website at www.bradleyco.net.