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Letter writer replies to VonCannon’s letter about animal shelter

To the Editor:
This is in response to Commissioner Charles VonCannon’s Letter to the Editor on July 9, 2021.
First, I want to say I have known Commissioner VonCannon for several years and he has done many great things for Elizabethton. He has had several ideas on ways to bring more businesses to our area, only to have those knocked down by others that did not agree with him, so I am sure he can relate to the frustration the employees and supporters of the Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter are feeling.
Commissioner VonCannon, in his letter to the editor, stated the Commission voted 19 to 4 to change the animal shelter to a non-profit. He was referring to a special called session of the Carter County Commission on Feb. 22, 2021, but the commissioners did not vote for the animal shelter to go to a non-profit status. This is how misinformation gets spread around. The minutes from this meeting and others can be found by going to www.cartercountytn.gov, clicking on “public documents,” and then “view monthly minutes.” What they voted on was the following motion (copied and pasted from the original posted minutes): “Motion was made by Gary Bailey, seconded by Robin McKamey to present a recommendation to the Elizabethton City County to fund a minimum of $225,000 for the next sixteen (16) months (thru June 30, 2022), allowing a transition period and budget approval for the Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter to become a 501(c)(3) pending budget approval.”
Even if someone did ask Mr. Winchester to speak on behalf of the animal shelter, is that wrong? It appears we need someone with an “impressive educational and business background” to speak to some of our Commissioners anyway since it seems some are unaware of what has been voted on or not voted on, the meaning of the word “free” as in the “free spay and neuter program” thru the ASPCA in Asheville, N.C., that eight (8) of them voted against, and some are trying to uphold their argument that the Animal Shelter could get all kinds of monetary support from the community as a non-profit (501c3) but at the same time talk about how poor this community is, etc.
You said, “Criticism is seldom appreciated even if it is deemed to be constructive.” If a person cannot take criticism, constructive or not, then maybe that person should not be in a position where they represent the people of this community. Criticism opens our eyes to things we may have overlooked or never considered. To work together we do not have to like being criticized, but we must be willing to accept it.
I am not into public name-calling, but this time will have to say Mr. Winchester called it correctly, in my opinion, in reference to the Commissioner he referred to as “Scrooge” (Gary Bailey). To justify my opinion, I would ask that the public refer to the Commission meeting minutes starting at least with 5/2020 and going through 6/2021. Again, these minutes can be found by going to www.cartercountytn.gov, clicking on “public documents,, then “view monthly minutes. I have looked back through each set of minutes, except for April 2020, which appears to be missing. There is hardly any record of Commissioner Bailey speaking up on any topic except for the animal shelter.
As a shelter volunteer, I have personally asked Commissioner Bailey several times beginning in 6/2020 – 1/2021 to meet me at the animal shelter to talk with the director and go over the shelter’s budget, line for line. One reason being, when he and I talked he would bring up the shelter’s budget and ask me, “What’s this for? How come this takes so much money? See, look at this.” I told Commissioner Bailey I am only a volunteer and the best way to get his questions answered was to go to the source. To date, I am sorry to say that no such meeting has taken place, yet he continues to take on the “project” or “campaign” of trying to cut the county’s funding of our animal shelter and force it into a 501c3.
Commissioner VonCannon, you commented you personally know of one Commissioner who gives over 29 times more to non-profits than the amount Mr. Winchester stated in his recent Letter to the Editor. The key word here is “non-profits.” Mr. Winchester was asking the Commissioners to divulge their giving to our animal shelter not to “non-profits.” So, your comment is, as in the words of Perry Mason, “incompetent, irrelevant, and immaterial.”
It is obvious you believe the animal shelter should become a non-profit organization, but in your letter you state, “We are not a wealthy county, have an aging population that is on a fixed income, plus our population consists of citizens whose family income ranks the family below the established poverty level. Nearly one-quarter of our citizens have children, were it not for food they get at school, that would go hungry.” I agree with you 100%. It has been years since I was in school, and it was the same for some children then just as it is today. I dare say it was the same when you were in school. Can you explain your reasoning of how you think the animal shelter can survive as a non-profit when you made the statements about our county not being a wealthy one, etc.? In one meeting recently you even stated that in a few years most of the population in this county would be on Social Security.
Furthermore, as has been commented on the Star’s Facebook page regarding your Letter to the Editor, the Carter County Commission cannot tell our animal shelter to convert to a 501c3. The County Attorney, Josh Hardin, has told the Commissioners this several times. This is because there is an existing agreement between the county and city that says:
• The level of funding from county and city shall be revisited each year based on the recommendation of the Animal Shelter Board. Both government entities shall approve and adopt a budget that permits the proper operation of the animal shelter.
• The county and city will continue to jointly fund the shelter and the agreement cannot be amended unless agreed in writing by both parties.
• The Animal Shelter Board is solely vested with full authority to govern all aspects of the operation of the shelter.
Commissioner VonCannon you said, “I do believe the animals at the animal shelter are well cared for. They are never hungry.” Yes, the shelter animals are well cared for, but that does not mean they are never hungry. Never is a long time! I must ask, have you been to the shelter talking to the animals? Did the animals tell you they are never hungry?
I wonder why it is that the shelter animals are well cared for? It is certainly not because we are a non-profit! It is because we have funding from the county and city due to a binding agreement even though we must fight for the funding every year. It is because Shannon Posada is a wonderful director, the best Carter County has ever had! It is because of the great group of caring, animal-loving, dedicated, and hard-working staff members the shelter has. It is because of shelter volunteers.
One last thought — animals do speak. Maybe not as in the animated cartoons and movies, but they do speak to each other and to us with their body language, voices, and expressions. We could all learn a lot from the animals!
TO THE CITIZENS OF CARTER COUNTY — Right now, the shelter’s budget for 2021-2022 has been approved by the Budget Committee and the budget is balanced. This budget must come before the full County Commission for their vote on Monday, July 19, 2021, after the Public Hearing, which starts at 5 p.m. If you would like to speak on behalf of the animal shelter, please call the Finance Department at 423-542-1805 prior to time for the meeting on July 19 and let them know you would like to be placed on the agenda. Speakers should get 5 minutes each as they have in the past.
To all the County Commissioners and City Council members who support our animal shelter and continue to fight, we are profoundly grateful! Also, we appreciate the citizens of this county that have stepped up to show their support. We hope to see you at the Budget hearing on July 19 at 5 p.m.!

Lisha Vines
Animal Shelter Volunteer and
Member of the Friends of Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter non-profit group