published Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

Bradley County weighs changes to its animal control contract

A puppy peers through a cage as animal control officer John Bivens cleans a walkway at the Cleveland Animal Control Shelter.
A puppy peers through a cage as animal control officer John Bivens cleans a walkway at the Cleveland Animal Control Shelter.
Photo by Tim Barber.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — The Bradley County Commission has narrowed its options to two for reducing its payments for animal control services by Cleveland.

Next Monday, commissioners plan to vote whether to drop animal pickups in the county or request that the city use audited animal control budgets instead of projected expenditures for determining the county's portion.

"If you start with the baby steps and we're already seeing savings, that gives us a year to discuss it," said Commissioner Jeff Yarber, who opposes eliminating animal pickups.

Yarber said pickup was put in the original agreement for a reason, and that in two years the reasons would resurface. He also cited further harm to Bradley County's "crippled relationship" with the city.

"Some people have said that no one will lose their jobs, but I've heard that the [animal control] workers have been told that there will be cuts if this happens," Yarber said. "I know some other commissioners have heard that."

Discontinuing pickup service for county residents -- but still allowing them to drop off animals -- is estimated to result in Bradley County paying $167,000 for animal services in the 2013-14 budget. Adjusting the calculation method to use audited figures is expected to cost the county $298,000.

If the county agrees to the current proposal put forth by the city, it would pay about $355,000, according to calculations by the Cleveland city manager's office. This figure amounts to 56.2 percent of the projected animal control budget for 2013-14; the county's portion is based on a matching percentage of animals picked up and dropped off from outside city limits in 2012.

Commissioners Adam Lowe and Charlotte Peak-Jones questioned the need for county animal pickup as a priority, with both stating that potential savings could go toward purchasing another ambulance for Bradley County Emergency Medical Services.

Peak-Jones said a lot of calls were wildlife related and therefore a waste because animal control services does not handle wild animals.

"I also concur with Mr. Lowe -- I'd rather buy an ambulance than pick up a dog," she said.

Whatever the commission decides, it needs to consider making the contract term for at least three years, Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis said.

"[The city] will start out a new contract with a one-year limit," he said. "I don't mean to sound negative, I'm just being realistic. They don't want to go through this again next year, and I really don't either as far as that goes."

The commission meets at noon May 20 at the county courthouse.

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