Barking issue draws Commission attention
Barking dogs and raises for a select group of county employees were two of the big issues tackled by
members of the Carter County Commission Monday evening.
Early in the meeting, members of the Commission heard a presentation from Phillip Wright, representing Serenity’s Edge Campground located next to the Elizabethton / Carter County Animal Shelter, who had asked to be placed on the agenda for the meeting. Wright told the commissioners he had been attempting to work with the Animal Shelter Board since February on a noise issue, but had seen no results, saying the Board refused to acknowledge that a noise problem exists at the shelter.
“The Animal Shelter was built in on top of a pre-existing business,” Wright said, saying the noise from the animal shelter is a nuisance that disturbs the peace of the campground. “It is basically the equivalent of building a methadone clinic on top of a daycare center.”
Wright said the noise from the shelter affects his business, and said he has documented the noise created by the animals at the shelter.
“We have an iPad where we have taken decibel readings,” he said. “Decibel readings were up to the 65 to 70 level, which is the equivalent of a hair dryer, a powerful hair dryer.
“I have one camper who said it didn’t hurt his ears but it hurt his sensibilities.”
Wright said that he has spoken with the Animal Shelter Board numerous times and has asked that they construct a sound barrier, but that the animal shelter has refused. He said County Mayor Leon Humphrey has refused to offer any assistance in the matter despite numerous complaints to the mayor’s office regarding the campground.
At the May meeting of the Animal Shelter Board, Wright spoke to the Board and requested the noise reduction barrier. Board Chairman Mike Barnett told the board at that time that he had been in contact with a company about noise reduction barriers that could help alleviate complaints about noise, but that he is waiting to hear back from a representative from the company regarding options.
Several members of the Commission had questions for Wright regarding his complaints about noise from the shelter.
Commissioner Nancy Brown asked whether Wright had voiced concerns about the construction of the shelter next to the campground before the shelter was built. Wright responded that he had not, but that his brother had. She then asked if Wright had taken his concerns to the City of Elizabethton, noting the shelter is a joint operation between the City and the County; Wright responded that he had not taken his complaint to the City.
Commissioner JoAnn Blankenship asked Wright if there was any activity which occurred at this campground such as loud music which could be disturbing the animals and causing them to make noise. He replied that there was no activity at his campground that would disturb the animals.
Several commissioners questioned what could be done to alleviate the noise issue that Wright said is disturbing his business.
“I’m not looking for a solution. I don’t think we can have one,” Wright said. “However I think one or two things can be done to greatly reduce the noise.”
Tom “Yogi” Bowers, chairman of the County Commission, referred the matter to the Health and Welfare Committee for further review, and discussion on the matter was closed.
However, the issue resurfaced during the commissioner comments portion of the meeting just before the meeting was adjourned.
“One of our members would have us believe the mayor caused the barking issue. Dogs are going to bark, it’s their nature,” said Commissioner Charles Von Cannon. “If you want to blame someone, blame the woman that brought in 12 pups. I don’t know who is responsible but I know it’s not the mayor.”
Following the comments by Von Cannon, Commissioner Ken Arney immediately stood and responded. “Mr. Von Cannon, I don’t believe I said it was all his fault,” he said. “Mr. Von Cannon you need to get your crayons in the right box. We can call a spade a spade if you want.”
Members of the Commission also passed a budget amendment request from Road Superintendent Jack Perkins that would give the employees of the Highway Department a 5 percent pay raise.
That request was presented by Budget Committee Chairman Harry Sisk, who made the motion to approve the raise. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Sonja Culler.
County Finance Director Ingrid Deloach said the funds for the remaining pay periods of the current fiscal year would come from leftover money in the Highway Department’s salary line item that had been budgeted to cover overtime pay. She said Perkins reported that he would not request additional funds to support the raise for the 2014-2015 fiscal year budget but rather would absorb the cost of the raise within his current budget proposal.
Commissioner John Lewis attempted to amend the motion to change it from a 5 percent pay raise to a one-time bonus of 5 percent.
“What happens if we have a lot of overtime next year and the money is not there?” Lewis asked.
The attempt to amend the motion failed and the motion passed with a majority of the Commission voting in favor of the raise.