Animal shelter debate once again heats up budget meeting

Published 4:50 pm Tuesday, December 5, 2017

A bill for architectural services that sparked debate during a recent meeting of the Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter Board proved once again to be the focus of a local government meeting on Monday evening.

Members of the Carter County Budget Committee heard a request to allocate funds to cover the $14,860 bill from Reedy & Sykes for architectural design services for the planned dog run construction at the Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter.

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During the Animal Shelter Board meeting on Nov. 28, County Commissioner Buford Peters told his fellow Board members that he had received a bill addressed to him and Board Chairman Mike Barnett from Reedy & Sykes for the design work. While the money to construct the dog runs and kennels will come from the DeLawder Estate fund for improvements to the animal shelter, Peters said the estate fund will not cover the cost of architectural or engineering work.

Peters said he and Barnett were unaware of the bill due to the fact the project had been authorized by Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey while he was still in a position of oversight for the shelter. The agreement for the project was by a “verbal agreement” according to the company, Peters said. According to Peters, no purchase order requests were made for the bill, and there was no mention of additional costs, going as far back as the budget cycle for the county.

In the days following the meeting, Humphrey contacted the Elizabethton Star seeking to respond to comments made during the Animal Shelter Board meeting. Humphrey said Peters, Barnett, other Animal Shelter Board members and the County Commission were all aware of the ongoing projects at the animal shelter, and that Peters and Barnett had been involved in meetings with the architect firm.

According to Humphrey, there is sufficient money in the “Snoopy Fund,” which is a fund created by small estate endowments to the animal shelter, to cover the cost of the design work.

Humphrey told the Elizabethton Star that he took issue with Peters bringing the matter up during the Animal Shelter Board meeting and passing along what Humphrey deemed misinformation.

“When this was brought to my attention, I was extremely upset,” Humphrey said in an interview with the Elizabethton Star on Dec. 1. “It was beyond my reasonable comprehension on why any elected official would go to that level to misinform and ignite the public and the board.”

Humphrey also told the Elizabethton Star he felt Peters actions were done for “political reasons” because the county is currently in an election cycle.

During Monday evening’s Budget Committee meeting, Humphrey and Peters each took issue with remarks made by the other.

“In June of this year, Pilate washed his hands of it. I resigned,” Humphrey said. “When I resigned on June 19 I immediately called a meeting at Reedy & Sykes with Mr. Buford Peters and (Animal Shelter Director) Mrs. Shannon Posada.”

Humphrey said Peters and others currently involved with the animal shelter were aware of the design phase of the project and that there was sufficient money in the Snoopy Fund to cover the cost. According to Humphrey, the Commission had previously approved an agreement with Reedy & Sykes for the design work.

“We knew the funds were there and you had already authorized it once, so why would we question that,” Humphrey said of his decision to authorize the work by Reedy & Sykes.

In response, Peters told members of the Budget Committee that Humphrey had previously told him and Barnett there was not enough money in the Snoopy Fund to cover the cost of designs.

Peters quoted Humphrey’s comments in the Elizabethton Star which accused him of seeking to ignite the Board with misinformation.

“I was going on what I was told,” Peters said. “I told the attorney there was no money because (Humphrey) told me there was no money in the Snoopy Fund.”

Humphrey chastised Peters for not checking for himself to see if money was available to cover the cost of the design plans.

“I gave this to the Finance Department to be properly processed like I do hundreds of these every month,” Humphrey said. “The first thing I thought you would do, Mr. Peters, is ask them before you went to the Board and ignited them. If you had asked that question they could have told you right then, or if you had even called me, but you didn’t do it.”

Barnett told the Board that he, like Peters, thought the funds were not available to cover the costs of the designs.

“I was under the impression we had almost exhausted the Snoopy Fund,” Barnett said.

Carter County Finance Director Christa Byrd told members of the Budget Committee there was enough money currently in the Snoopy Fund to cover the bill from Reedy & Sykes. Currently, Byrd said, there is around $15,600 in the Snoopy Fund, which will drop to a balance below $800 after the $14,860 architectural bill is paid.

Budget Committee member Commissioner Ronnie Trivett made a motion to transfer $14,860 from the Snoopy Fund to the Animal Shelter’s budget in the architectural services line item to pay for the design work. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Al Meehan and passed unanimously on a vote.

The fund transfer will be presented to the full Carter County Commission for their approval during their meeting on Dec. 11. If approved by the full Commission, the Animal Shelter Board will have to approve the expenditure to pay the bill at their next meeting, which will take place in January.