Animal Shelter seeks to solve staffing problem during Budget Committee meeting

Published 8:57 am Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Among the items presented during Tuesday night’s County Budget Committee meeting was a proposal from the County Animal Shelter.

County Commissioner and board member for the animal shelter Sonja Culler proposed $8,000 in order to hire two additional part-time workers at the shelter.

She said part of the decision to request the funding was due to the inability to keep the shelter staffed during normal operating hours, saying the employees felt guilty asking for time off.

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The committee briefly discussed the possibility of using prison inmates to fill the needed labor.

County Sheriff Dexter Lunceford spoke against the idea.

“Trustees should not be used as employees,” Lunceford said. “They cannot do this work.”

He said inmates go through a vetting process just to be eligible for work like this in the first place, and then must go through another vetting process in order to work without a constant guard escort. Of the few who remain after both processes, he said there simply were not enough candidates to warrant such a decision.

The city of Elizabethton currently provides 25 percent of the shelter’s budget, currently translating to about $100,000. The county currently provides the rest. If the shelter cannot maintain the staff necessary to keep the doors open, Culler said the county may have to give the shelter to an Independent non-profit organization.

The shelter currently houses hundreds of cats and dogs combined, and they said the staffing issues makes it difficult to take in new animals because someone has to be working there every single day.

The committee voted to approve the budget increase for the shelter.

During the time for public comments, an inquiry was made about the recent water damages to the county jail. The committee determined the current estimates were about $43,000 worth of water damage. There are currently no estimates on how much it would cost to make the necessary repairs. Part of the unknown is determining whether it will be necessary for the jail to replace the locks in the jail.