County mayor takes issue with STAR editorial on shelter, library spending

Published 12:54 pm Monday, May 29, 2017

I read with great interest the “Our View” article published in the Wednesday, May 24, 2017 issue of the Elizabethton Star titled, “City needs to stand firm on shelter funding; county needs to step up with more library funds.”
The anonymous author of the editorial clearly does not understand how government funding works. Thankfully the citizens of Carter County, which includes not only the City of Elizabethton, City of Watauga and City of Johnson City, understand that there are many critical programs and services that the local, state and federal government provide to citizens. The citizens know that where these programs and services are concerned there are funding disparities which have existed for many decades. It is up to all elected and appointed officials as well as their staff to work together to resolve these disparities. Unfortunately, some disparities will never be resolved because some communities simply cannot afford to provide all the programs and services required by their citizens. It takes all governments (Cities, Counties, States and Federal) working together, equal share or not, to assist and care for the needs of the citizens of this great Country.
The problem that I have with this editorial is that the anonymous author of the article failed to cite any examples where there is an imbalance in favor of the City of Elizabethton. An immediate example that comes to mind is the Elizabethton-Carter County Health Department. The City currently provides annual funding of approximately $30,000 whereas the County funds approximately $170,000. Has the County ever asked is that fair?
The author also failed to mention the significant financial commitment the County Commission recently made to expand the Health Department. The County Commission recognized the urgent need to provide critical health care services to our less fortunate children, youth and seniors over three years ago and have worked diligently to make this project a reality.
The initial estimates for the project came in at approximately $1,000,000. The County made an application for special needs funding which resulted in $450,000 being provided by the State of Tennessee leaving $550,000 necessary to complete the project. The County Commission, without hesitation, committed to providing the funding “for the entire County and all the Cities within the County.”
At no point in time did I hear any of the County Commissioners state that they would not designate the monies unless the cities of Elizabethton, Watauga and Johnson City allocated their fair share. The County Commission cares about all the citizens who call Carter County home and is making every effort to do what is right for them without drawing lines of separation. It is past time for that kind of nonsense to stop. ALL Citizens of Elizabethton, Watauga and Johnson City in Carter County ARE first and foremost Carter County Citizens. Perhaps it is time for ALL the Citizens of Carter County to come together to form a metropolitan form of government. This would most definitely do away with the “us,” “them” and “across the bridge” way of thinking. It would eliminate a great number of duplications of service and result in a tremendous saving of tax dollars.
It was disturbing to me that the author condoned the recent actions of the City Council in its vote on May 1, 2017 to reduce critical funding for the Animal Shelter. This is the same City of Elizabethton legislative body that negotiated terms over an extended period and ultimately voted in September 2011 to enter a five-year contract. Said contract became effective on September 19, 2011 and provided for a 50/50 split of the total operating cost between the City and County. The contract automatically renewed in September 2016 for yet another five years. A copy of the contract can be seen on the County’s website in the Public Notices section at .
At no point in time did the County Mayor ever have a vote in the approval of the contract between the city and county. However the anonymous author would lead you to believe that it is all the County Mayor’s doing. The wording within the article seems to imply that the County Mayor has committed a heinous crime, one which is morally and ethically wrong. I am here to tell the anonymous author that the County Mayor demanding the City Council honor their contractual obligations is not a crime nor audacious.
All governmental entities and citizens are required by law to honor their contractual agreements. Had the City not agreed to pay 50% of the annual operating costs, beginning in September 2011 and on-going, the County WOULD HAVE NEVER agreed to jointly fund the construction of the new shelter, jointly fund the annual operating costs or agree to manage the day to day operations of the shelter. This is a 24 hour per day, seven days per week and 365 days per year obligation. The County does not receive ANY compensation from the City for the County Mayor’s day-to-day executive management of the Shelter as is required by the contract, nor does the City reimburse the County for the Finance Department’s support, the support of the County Sheriff’s office, nor does the City reimburse the County for the Comptroller’s annual audit that is required for the Shelter.
Let’s take a very close look at the City Council’s commitment to the Shelter. On May 11, 2017, the day of the last City Council Meeting, City of Elizabethton Mayor Curt Alexander, who has a seat on the Animal Shelter Advisory Board but who has never ever attended a meeting, for the very first time stepped foot in the Shelter. Mayor Alexander advised Director Shannon Posada that he had never been there before and was going to do “everything he could to help.”
Looking back to November 21, 2016, City of Elizabethton Mayor Curt Alexander came before the County Commission (which recording can be seen at ) voiced his, the City Manager’s and the Council’s on-going support in honoring “its commitment that was outlined in its contract” with the County to operate and fund the Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter. Mayor Alexander stated that, “There was some question last time, at the last (Commission) meeting, where the city stood as far as funding. My position there and I think the City Council and City Manager who I just spoke with before I came over here…we went back in history and tried to find a time where the City has not honored a financial commitment that they have made and that has never happened so I guess when people want to make that statement they should have their facts right. We have a signed contract to pay 50% of the cost and we will pay 50% of the cost.” Mayor Alexander went on to state that, “We do understand that it was severely underfunded and we agree it was underfunded.” Given this commitment from Mayor Alexander and the City Council, the County Commission, Shelter Staff and I are shocked that the City voted on May 11, 2017 to not honor the contract.
It is important that each of you know my track record when it comes to those budgets that fall within the scope of this office. Since being elected in 2010 there have been seven budget cycles. Where the county mayor’s as well as the county building and grounds budgets are concerned I have never asked for one penny of additional funding. To the contrary, I can honestly say I am the only elected official that has made drastic cuts within these budgets; to the tune of over $70,000 annually. This equates to approximately $500,000 hard earned taxpayer dollars never having being spent.
It has always been my practice to live within the means provided and to never force an undue burden on those that placed absolute trust in me. I fully acknowledge my fiduciary duty to all Carter County Citizens. I encourage each of you to contact me if you have questions pertaining to any issue that concerns you. DO NOT rely solely on thirty second sound bites or editorials from anonymous authors who are clueless when it comes to government operations and funding for there is always two sides to every board.
Please feel free to contact me at or by phone at 423-542-1801 if you have any questions or if I can be of assistance to you. My office is located at 801 East Elk Avenue, Suite 201, located in the County Courthouse in Elizabethton. I have an open-door policy and everyone is always welcome.

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