Give us your strays: County advances plan to take cities’ abandoned animals
By Matthew Stewart | (email@example.com)
The Blount County Commission will soon consider an agreement which would allow the Blount County Animal Shelter to receive all stray or abandoned animals from Maryville and Alcoa.
The Blount County Agenda Committee forwarded the agreement Tuesday to the County Commission. The 21-member elected body will consider the proposal at 7 p.m. Feb. 21.
Maryville and Alcoa have asked Blount County to produce a proposed interlocal agreement with annual costs for receiving stray or abandoned animals from the two cities. County officials have estimated:
• Maryville would pay $66,000 for annual operation costs and $8,070 for annual capital allocation;
• Alcoa would pay $17,250 for annual operation costs and $2,100 for annual capital allocation.
The Blount County Animal Center costs about $330,000 per year, said Blount County Finance Director Randy Vineyard. The funds would serve as possible revenue streams.
Maryville and Alcoa animal control employees would continue to pick up animals in their cities under their respective city ordinances. Animal control employees would then bring them to the animal center on Curie Street, and the center would become custodians of those animals under county animal center regulations.
If the agreement is approved by the parties, Maryville’s animal center, which also takes Alcoa’s animals, will be closed.
City and county officials have been working on an interlocal agreement for months. Under the proposed agreement, any of the three parties could terminate the contract by giving six months notice.
Several county commissioners praised the proposed agreement.
“It’s a good concept,” said Mike Lewis. “I’m in favor of anything that helps governments work more effectively.”
The agreement could bolster the Blount County Animal Shelter’s operations, which the County Commission has been subsidizing, he said. “Why wouldn’t we do this?”
“It’s a win-win situation for us,” said Peggy Lambert.
However, several commissioners expressed concerns with the proposed agreement.
Holden Lail said the agreement’s fees were based on estimates from historical data. He noted that if those estimates are inaccurate then the county will receive less revenue than expected and still be accountable for the animals.
“We’re open for more financial problems down the road,” Lail said.
Mark Hasty questioned whether the agreement might lead to additional costs, such as additional shelter employees. “While it seems positive, it could be negative down the road.”
No additional funding is required on the front end, Vineyard said. However, the finance director advised that he couldn’t predict future staffing needs due to the shelter’s use of volunteers.
Several commissioners also questioned the proposed costs to both cities.
“We need to look back at the old minutes to settle this fairly,” said Brad Harrison, alluding to a 2006 cost estimate issued by the city of Maryville to continue providing animal control options for the county. County commissioners didn’t renew that contract.
“This could be a good revenue stream, if approached properly,” said Ron French.
French also suggested that county officials approach the city of Maryville about the county’s recycling problems. “Maybe we can get them to help with our recycling problems. Maybe we can be neighborly with both problems.”
Alcoa City Commission and Maryville City Council haven’t approved the agreements because city officials are waiting to see if the county would be interested.
Alcoa City Commission hasn’t been fully briefed on the interlocal agreement, said Vice Mayor Clint Abbott. The commissioner is entrusting City Manager Mark Johnson to provide them with a recommendation in the near future.
Maryville City Council hasn’t been fully briefed on the interlocal agreement, said Mayor Tom Taylor. City Manager Greg McClain is scheduled next week to provide information to council members.
“Philosophically, I don’t have a problem with it,” Taylor said. “I’ll entertain dialogue with the county about these types of partnerships anytime.”
“Anytime we can partner together is a good thing for our community,” Abbott said.