Committee to discuss animal control options



By Anna C. Irwin
of The Daily Times Staff
November 18, 2006

A committee of five Blount County Commissioners and County Mayor Jerry Cunningham will meet Nov. 27 to consider options for animal control in the county.

In recent years, the county has contracted with the city of Maryville to provide animal control outside the county's unincorporated areas. During the budget process, the County Commission did not approve the amount requested by Maryville to continue the service.

Maryville agreed to provide the service through the end of the calendar year to allow the county to decide how to deal with the problem.

Commissioner Wendy Pitts Reeves said she has met with representatives of a group attempting to develop an animal control program for the county. She said the group appears to be making progress toward a long-term solution to the problem.

However, Maryville needs $125,000 to provide the service through the end of the fiscal year on June 30. Only $67,000 remains available from the amount appropriated by the commission.

One idea already being explored would involve the purchase of two trucks and using two county animal control officers to enforce state and local laws. Animals picked up by the officers would be taken to the Maryville Animal Shelter for possible pickup by owners or adoption but, if not claimed, would be euthanized after three days.

Cunningham reported to the commission Thursday that the purchase price for two animal control trucks would be about $16,000 each. He said he has been advised that Maryville would charge a $38 per day board bill for each animal brought from the county. He said he has been told the majority of animals at the shelter are picked up in the county.

Several commissioners said they were unwilling to go into the county fund balance for the money needed to extend the contract with Maryville or to operate a limited county animal control program.

Instead, five commissioners were appointed to a committee to explore other options, then make recommendations to the commission in the December meeting. Committee members are David Ballard Jr., Tonya Burchfield, Monika Murrell, Wendy Pitts Reeves and Steve Samples.

Pellissippi extension
In other action, the commission rejected a resolution to ask the Tennessee Department of Transportation to include in the Environmental Impact Statement an analysis of projected costs to the county for services necessary due to growth resulting from completion of the Pellissippi Parkway extension.

Commissioner Murrell reported that she has spoken with three different entities and has been assured that the state would pay for the fiscal impact study. She said she has also been assured the study could be completed within the same time frame as the Environmental Impact Statement which is required by federal law.

Murrell said she believes the information provided by a fiscal impact study would help the commission in planning for the parkway extension's effect on funding needed for such things as schools, roadways, safety and other items.

Nina Gregg, a member of the Board of Directors of CAPPE, (Citizens Against the Pellissippi Parkway Extension), spoke to the commission encouraging adoption of the resolution sponsored by Murrell and Dr. Robert Proffitt. She said CAPPE has asked TDOT to include an analysis on the impact of the parkway extension on the county budget.

She said the organization believes a similar request from the commission would carry more weight with TDOT. She noted that the resolution does not take a position for or against the proposed parkway nor would it delay completion of the Environmental Impact Study already under way.

Commissioner Steve Hargis led opposition to the resolution, contending it is yet another delaying tactic by CAPPE. He and a dozen other commissioners voted against adopting the resolution.

The "no" votes came from Commissioners Burchfield, Gary Farmer, David Graham, Hargis, Brad Harrison, Mark Hasty, Scott Helton, John Keeble, Gerald Kirby, Holden Lail, Mike Lewis, Kenneth Melton and Mike Walker. The eight commissioners voting to adopt the resolution were Ballard, Ron French, Joe McCulley, Murrell, Proffitt, Dr. Robert Ramsey, Pitts Reeves, and Samples.

Following the meeting, Gregg said she and other members of her organization who attended Thursday's commission meeting are "disappointed that so many commissioners, including a number newly elected, are not interested in having information on which to base their decision about the future of the county."

She said she is hopeful TDOT will conduct the fiscal impact study without a request from the commission.