Bradley County tries again for animal control accord

Bradley County tries again for animal control accord

June 19th, 2013 by Paul Leach in Local - Breaking News

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/Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- The Bradley County Commission has asked the Cleveland City Council to reconsider a three-year proposal to eliminate animal pickups outside city limits but allow all county residents to drop off animals at the Cleveland Animal Shelter.

County commissioners voted 10-2 to resubmit the proposal and request "an immediate response" from the City Council, which recently voted 4-3 against the proposal after modifying it to a one-year term.

"This commission is not anti-animal or anti-city," said Commissioner Bill Winters, who sponsored the request. "The proposal that we've submitted represents the dual priorities we have: fiscal responsibility with taxpayer funds being used in the best possible way in service to the funding base we have."

Winters' request calls for the city to provide "a solid professional response" other than just a refusal to accept the county's terms.

Eliminating animal pickup outside the city has been estimated to cost Bradley County $167,000 for fiscal year 2014, but officials expect that figure to drop because the county's contribution to the animal shelter is based on the percentage of animals from outside the city that it handles.

About 60 percent of the animals now processed by the shelter come from outside the city, Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis said, but that probably will drop to 35 percent if the changes are made.

In comparison, a proposal that would maintain all current services but base the county's contribution on audited numbers -- as opposed to projected numbers used now -- has been estimated to cost Bradley County $298,000 for fiscal year 2014. City leaders have said they could accept such an agreement, but only three county commissioners -- Jeff Yarber, Brian Smith and Jeff Morelock -- supported the measure in a previous vote.

The renewed request was pointless, said Yarber, who was joined by Commissioner Brian Smith in voting against resubmitting the proposal to the city.

However, Yarber asked that if the city turned down the offer again, the county should reallocate budgeted animal control funding to a proposed $14 million renovation for Lake Forest Middle School. The measure failed with a 6-6 split.

"I think it's premature, although I like what Commissioner Yarber is thinking," said Commissioner Adam Lowe, who said the county has not yet agreed to fund the middle school's overhaul.

Commissioners Louie Alford, Mel Griffith, Bill Winters, Ed Elkins and Charlotte Peak-Jones joined Lowe in opposing Yarber's request; Commissioners Smith, Morelock, Connie Wilson, Robert Rominger and Terry Caywood supported it.

Beginning July 1, the Cleveland Animal Shelter will not accept animals from outside the city if Bradley County and Cleveland do not reach an agreement.

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