CLEVELAND, Tenn. - An effort to renegotiate Bradley County's animal control agreement with Cleveland has met with challenges.
Earlier this week, the Cleveland City Council voted 7-0 against making any changes to the formula on which the animal services agreement is based, at least for a three-year period.
"Whatever we've done in the past worked good for the animals and the animal lovers, and the city and the county as a whole, including the city residents who pay county taxes," Councilman Richard Banks said. "At some point we draw a line and say, 'That's it.'"
According to the current agreement, the city allocates expenses between Bradley County and Cleveland based on the portion of animals received and picked up from inside and outside city limits.
The proportion of animal drop-offs and pickups from outside the city amounted to 56.2 percent in 2012, meaning the county would pay 56.2 percent of the projected budget in fiscal year 2013-14.
According to Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis, that amounts to a $390,000 bill to the county.
Although a number of options were reviewed Monday by the Bradley County Commission, that body has elected to research the matter further, Chairman Louie Alford said.
"Right now, we are taking a look at how other similar-sized counties handle their animal control services," he said.
Commissioner Jeff Morelock said a number of commissioners expressed interest in accepting an agreement that relies on audited numbers from the previous year and still maintains animal pickup services for residents outside the city. This would save the county nearly $27,000 over its 2012-13 contribution of $324,633.
Other contract alternatives involve deducting costs associated with animal pickups outside the city limits, but they also would eliminate animal pickup service outside of the city. The lowest cost associated for that level of service is $167,000, according to budgeting scenarios prepared by the Cleveland city manager's office.
"They wanted to deduct every expense that involved an automobile, and that's how they were continuing to get their price down," said City Manager Janice Casteel in a meeting with the Cleveland City Council. "That's not what we need, because if we are going to continue our spay and neuter programs and have the benefit of that, we need the trucks rolling throughout the entire county."
Animal groups have said they would volunteer to pick up animals on behalf of the animal shelter if the county terminates pickup services, Casteel said. However, that is something the city would prefer not to do, she said.
Cleveland leaders discussed possible courses of action if an agreement cannot be reached before June 30, including reducing expenses.
"The budget should go down if you are covering half the area," Banks said.
Reducing the number of animals brought in from outside the city actually could help the shelter, which now handles more animals than it was intended to accommodate, Councilman Bill Estes said.
"We would have an animal shelter that fits the needs of Cleveland," he said.
Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at email@example.com.