published Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

Bradley County defends Cleveland Animal Shelter funding

Bradley County Commissioner Ed Elkins, chairman of the redistricting committee
Bradley County Commissioner Ed Elkins, chairman of the redistricting committee
  • photo
    Bradley County Commissioner Charlotte Peak-Jones
    Photo by Paul Leach /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — The Bradley County Commission has taken exception to criticism that its initiative to seek animal shelter services through private means instead of contracting with the Cleveland Animal Shelter is forcing Cleveland taxpayers to actually fund two shelter operations.

On Monday, Commissioner Ed Elkins addressed bottom-line implications of the county's private sector solution for animal shelter services with fellow commissioners, citing comments recently attributed to Councilman Richard Banks.

"By my analysis, it looks like ... that by doing what we did, we saved city residents quite a bit of money," said Elkins.

Although it is a "true statement" for city leaders to say that Cleveland residents pay for the municipal animal shelter through their city taxes and, through their county taxes, contribute half of the funding to the county's private shelter, there is more to the situation, he said.

Under the county's current two-year agreement with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to provide animal sheltering services for an $80,000 annual donation, city residents will contribute $40,000 of that amount through their county taxes, Elkins said.

Under the county's longstanding contract with the Cleveland Animal Shelter, city residents contributed $162,500 to Bradley County's $325,000 payment to the municipal shelter in 2012-13, he said. According to the old agreement between the county and city, Bradley County funded a percentage of the animal shelter budget based on service calls and animals handled that originated outside Cleveland city limits, which usually equated with about 60 percent of the shelter budget.

That contract came to a standstill last spring when the commission and the Cleveland City Council could not agree on the county's portion of the municipal shelter's proposed 2013-14 budget, which exceeded $600,000.

The $245,000 savings that the county receives from its move to funding a private shelter has not been allocated to any specific budget line items or projects, Elkins said.

In related business, Commissioner Charlotte Peak-Jones, who serves on the SPCA board along with Commissioner Mark Hall, urged the community to support the private shelter.

"I think the community needs to get behind SPCA instead of all the attacks," she said. "If everyone gets behind this organization, it will work."

The SPCA shelter, which operates on no-kill principles, accepts animals from inside and outside the city, she said.

Peak-Jones, along with Commissioner Jeff Yarber, has criticized recent SPCA decisions.

Both made a call for transparency when SCPA President Betti Gravelle appointed SPCA board treasurer Jack Burke as interim shelter director on short notice without a board vote after the sudden resignation of shelter director Jack Cooper on March 22, six days after shelter operations began.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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