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Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter board charged to reduce budget numbers

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com
Just a few days before the Carter County Commission is set for its public hearing on the new 2021-2022 budget, the Budget Committee sent Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter Director Shannon Posada back to the Animal Shelter board to reduce nearly $82,000 on the proposed budget.

Most of the issue surrounding the animal shelter budget was around the shelter seeking $27,000 for a new vehicle which was included in the budget for approval.

During discussions on Tuesday evening, the board said by taking the $27,000 out of the budget would bring the number down to $55,000 which also already included the $38,000 that the Commission had already agreed to take from a line item for animal control from the Carter County Sheriff’s department.

By deducting the $38,000 from the $55,000 difference, it only left around $17,000 that the animal shelter was seeking to fill a part-time animal control person to help offset the overtime current animal control employee Darren Lacy is accumulating as the position has been working out quite well for both the city and county in responding to animal control needs.

Elizabethton City Manager Daniel Estes was present at the meeting and suggested that he could take the remaining difference of roughly $17,000 or whatever it might be back to the City Council but the Commission first had to agree to the budget before he could put the item on the agenda with an accurate total to be addressed by Council.

Posada shared exactly just how effective that the animal control position has been.

“Darren had 53 animal control calls last month which came at any time of the day,” Posada stated. “He has come to work at 6 am by going to Fish Springs around the lake to get animals. He had a call this week of a DUI at 2 am in the morning so he is in and out at all times of the day and night.

“That is exactly why I put the part-time position in the budget is because there is such a thing as working a good worker until they quit and then trying to replace them is very hard especially in times like now so I would like to keep the people that I have.

Darren is doing a very good job,” Posada continued. “He went to a scene of an accident and the lady said that the dog in the vehicle with her was her service dog and he loaded the dog and took him to the emergency room and they finally let him take him in.

“I can see Darren is getting tired. He goes to church on Sunday morning and if his phone rings then he is out of there to answer that call.”

Animal Shelter Board Chairman Mike Barnett then questioned Posada by saying, “Can I ask a question about the Carter County budget – what other departments are being cut? Is it across the board?

“Our budget was the only one being denied,” Posada responded.

County Commissioner Kelly Collins followed by interjecting, “It was my understanding the only reason our budget was being denied was because of the truck and my understanding also was some of the outside agencies were cut.”

“It was denied – one because of the truck and the other because of the animal control – the part-time position,” Posada stated. “The way we present numbers is not the way they are perceived and they are always turned around to make us look like we have a half-million-dollar budget and that’s the perception that they want everybody in Carter County to see is that we have a half-million-dollar budget and that is absolutely not true. It would be nice if that was the case.”

Board member Commission Dr. Robert Acuff then added that he heard that there might also be a further budget reduction and questioned Posada what her plan would be if that was the case.

“If that happens, are they going to fund animal control? If they don’t give us the money from the Sheriff’s Department that they got last year and transfer that over – that’s in our budget, we are going to have to cut somewhere,” Posada stated.

“Darren gets overtime and my employees are working seven days a week and even on holidays and there is holiday pay regardless plus they still have to work.

“If it comes to that point, I have put in for a part-time animal control person in there as it is listed on our budget sheet. If it comes to it, we have two choices,” Posada commented.

“We can either cut it until they decide to fund it or we can cut Darren back and when he gets to 40 hours per week and if that is on Wednesday, then I am sorry we don’t have animal control on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday because the new payroll starts on Monday and that is a decision this board needs to make.

“There is only so much you can cut and when you start cutting staff, you are going to start cutting services.”

Dr. Acuff responded by telling Posada that many of those present at the meeting will also be present on Monday night for Posada’s presentation in support of the initiative but felt that she would have to be frank with the Commissioners.

“I don’t mind being frank with them,” Posada said. “We are not in the miracle-working business and we can’t make miracles happen if they don’t participate with us.

“I spoke to Mr. (Austin) Jaynes and he said that he had heard rumored that they wanted to cut our budget back to $225,000 and I want to remind everybody when they started this 501c3 thing that they said we are not going to cut your budget. We are not in it to cut your budget. That is not what we are in it for.

“I don’t know the terms they are calling it if it’s not called cutting your budget. So they can explain that as well Monday night.”

Chairman Barnett added, “I think sooner or later and that is why in the board discussion, I want to know how hard you all and some of the friends of the shelter and some other people to maybe become a little pushier on percentages, breakdowns, and what the commission is doing and not doing in the community and how much damage could it do to our shelter.

“You can’t keep giving up ground. If we had done that in World War II and everything else, we would have a different flag out there on these grounds so sooner or later, you are going to have to fight. When do we fight and how much are the people in this room willing to fight and am I willing to put a hurt on my business for it.”

Dr. Acuff further stated, “If the public is going to weigh in, it needs to be done during the public outlay of the budget because once we get past the public discussion and get it to the floor of the commission they can stand up at that podium all day and bark and nothing will be changed.”

Posada shared the numbers for the month of May at the shelter during the meeting as well.

“For the month of May, cat intake was 103 while we had 26 kittens and moms returned back to the shelter from foster,” shared Posada. “We have 47 more kittens and moms sent back to foster, our dog intake for May was 38 plus six returned to owners.

“Our cat adoptions were 57 for the month and our dog adoptions were 47. Our current numbers right now are 96 in the shelter plus 47 kittens and moms in foster for a total of 143 cats and kittens.

“We have 48 dogs at the shelter. We have a seven-dog cruelty case and a cruelty case of a wonderful pit bull with her nine puppies and she is a real joy.”

Another thorn in the flesh that the board is attempting to rid themselves of is a faulty pump at the shelter which is hindering the effective use of six dog runs where animals can be taken outside.

A total of $238,000 was spent on the pump and according to Posada, the expectation is that the friends of the shelter pay for the replacement of the pump.

A motion was made by the board to get County Attorney Josh Hardin and City Attorney Roger Day involved and send written documentation to Reedy and Sykes informing them of a time frame for the problem to be resolved and if it is not resolved then legal proceedings will take place to bring a resolution.

The issue has been ongoing for nearly three years.

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