Council discusses shelter funding, Parks & Rec at budget workshop

Published 5:13 pm Monday, April 17, 2017

For the time being, don’t expect much of a change to the City of Elizabethton’s contribution to the Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter.
City Council began the process of going through the proposed 2017-18 budget Monday and one of the more hotly-contested line items came up in discussion in regards to funding for the animal shelter.
As Council members went through the current proposed budget, City Manager Jerome Kitchens alluded to the fact the city’s portion of funding is still tentatively pegged as the same as last year – roughly $127,000 – as contract negotiations between the city and county are expected to pick up in the coming months.
Elizabethton Mayor Curt Alexander told council members that the city voted to renegotiate the contract for the sake of the taxpayers and that the city has “fulfilled their portion of the contract.”
One item brought up during the meeting was that even though the contract was stated as a “50-50” cost between both entities – city taxpayers are absorbing more of a blow paying roughly $10 a head at the shelter (paying both city and county taxes) while county-only residents are paying roughly $2.50 a head at the shelter.
The Elizabethton Star reported during the February 9 City Council meeting that officials voted to request a renegotiation of an agreement to fund the operation of the animal shelter.
A copy of the city’s agreement obtained by the Elizabethton Star indicated the contract was scheduled February 13, 2012 and set to last for five years, with the lone amendment coming in 2014. Without any action, the contract would automatically renew but with the Council voting to renegotiate their portion, it effectively nullified the city’s agreement with action taking place before the deadline.
County representation was on hand for the budget work with County Commissioners Sonja Culler, Danny Ward, Mike Hill and Dr. Robert Acuff providing information to the Council from the county’s side of budget talks.
With the animal shelter budget roughly pegged around $450,000, according to Culler, the city would be on the hook to pay a near $100,000 increase had the agreement not be nullified.
Mayor Alexander added he wanted to clear the air due to different reports coming out through the media indicating Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey stating the city was still in the contractual agreement with the county to fund half of the operations. The contract reportedly on the books for the county was in September of 2011 while the city’s was in February 2012.
“With both agreements now expired, this is a time for us to come to the table and come to an agreement that benefits everyone,” Alexander said. “We want to partner with the County Commission and do these great things with the county.”
City Attorney Roger Day is expected to meet with County Attorney Josh Hardin soon to begin working on a new agreement to adopt between both entities.
Among items discussed, including streets/sanitation, police and fire departments, Elizabethton Parks & Recreation Director Mike Mains also provided Council with information on projects going on within the city.
Proposals by the department include resurfacing on tennis courts near Franklin Pool, work at Covered Bridge Park and the implementation of a special events coordinator position.
During the proposal, Mayor Alexander commended the work of Parks & Rec and stated that the city would look at using bond money to help improve parks around the city. One project the mayor alluded to was possibly assisting West Side Elementary with their new ADA-accessible playground – which would be utilized by students at the school and public alike.
Mains also brought up the sports complex idea – a joint partnership between county and city Parks & Rec. The partnership has netted tremendous ground, he added, with the county comprising 63 percent of the parks’ usage in the city.
Budget talks continue Wednesday with City Council going through a workshop addressing the general fund along with utilities. The meeting is scheduled to take place at 11 a.m. inside City Hall.

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