What’s next? … The outcome of Commission vote on Animal Shelter to be addressed Tuesday

Published 10:19 pm Thursday, July 22, 2021

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com 
There is a saying that one needs to be careful of what they ask because they may get exactly what they didn’t want and while several Carter County Commissioners felt relieved to get the Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter budget reduced by $70,000 during a vote to approve the fiscal year 2021-2022 budget, time will tell if that reduction will result in a blessing or a curse.

The Animal Shelter board is set to meet in a special called session on Tuesday at the Carter County Courthouse at 6 pm charged with coming up with how and where to slice and dice the budget down by the $70,000 after the budget had been sent to the Commissioners and was part of the balanced budget presented for a vote.

Could the $70,000 come by completely eliminating the animal control position for which a large part of the $70,000 was earmarked for including salary, benefits, vehicle upkeep, gas, insurance, and other items that were needed for the position?

If this particular direction was to be chosen by the board, the impact will be immediate as the Carter County Sheriff’s Department and Elizabethton Police Department would be required to transport animals to the animal shelter once again as they did before the animal control position was created.

One particular individual who was directly impacted by the decision is Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter Director Shannon Posada who has been fielding questions from employees and taxpayers and stated that she simply has no answers until the animal shelter board meets and makes its decisions.

“I don’t know that some of them care or understand the impact that comes with their decision or the impact that the shelter has on the community,” Posada said about the vote to cut the shelter’s budget. “$70,000 is a whole lot of money for the animal shelter and anybody as far as that is concerned.

“That is going to force our board members to make some tough decisions and those decisions could be anywhere from cutting a staff member to cutting intake numbers at which time people will start dumping them (animals) at that point.

“Are we going to have to cut animal control services because somewhere we are going to have to cut $70,000 at best and that is not an easy cut?”

Posada makes no bones about being disheartened by the commission’s vote and says that county residents who pay taxes will also suffer from the decision.

“There are many phone calls that we get – phone calls that a dog has bit somebody or is running at large and they get hit by a car. What are you going to do – leave them laying there on the side of the road to bleed to death or let someone else hit them and cause a bigger accident?

“Are we going to let roaming dogs just roam and possibly kill someone’s child or animal? It’s not very well thought out and to think that I hide money or it’s (animal shelter) not worth supporting.

“When you take the $9 out of Carter County taxpayer’s property tax, $9 goes to the Animal Shelter. Do we not provide enough services for that $9? Have they asked the community what they thought?”

Posada was also disenchanted by the reaction that some of the commissioners had in response to those in the community who appeared to pour their hearts out in hopes that the commission could see the importance of passing the budget without any cuts to the animal shelter.

“A lot of people poured out their hearts to this commission and to be honest I saw some of them laughing at them,” said Posada. “That is not professional and that is not what this community voted for in a commissioner and that is not what as a leader you should be doing.

“Anyone that wants to voice an opinion, you ought to be at least willing to listen. If it concerns the community, then it should be at least worth listening to.”

Among the concerns Posada is dealing with includes how to provide the four percent pay raise that the commission voted on for all county employees as the money for that has to be accounted for and wasn’t included in the recently passed budget and could result in further cuts to be able to fulfill that raise for those employees at the animal shelter.

And then will the animal shelter be forced to go backward in their spay and neuter program as funds run out as the staff at the animal shelter has been showing up at 5:30 am to make trips to Asheville to spay and neuter feral cats to cost the taxpayers less money.

“Is that appreciated?” asked Posada. “My staff don’t think so now.

“There are many who have not even been in the doors down here as elected officials but they were the first to say cut it. We were the only budget cut. We saved them $60,000 from our budget last year because of COVID and because we took advantage of the free spay and neuter services in Asheville.

“We didn’t work from home one day during COVID,” Posada continued. “We were here seven days a week working. The board members will make that decision next week and whatever decision they make, that will be what has to be cut.

“If you want a service you have to pay for it and you pay for what you get. If you don’t want the service then don’t pay for it.

“It was hard for me to come in on Tuesday morning after the commission meeting and tell them what happened. I have one of the best staff anywhere but I couldn’t guarantee them anything. I have single parents here and I have one getting married soon and I can’t make a promise of the future. They may be here and they may not.”

Posada feels like the decision to cut the funding to the animal shelter has nothing to do with money but is part of the political push and pull between the county and city noting that the city stepped up with $20,000 on top of the $125,000 they had already committed to cover the cost of a part-time animal control position.

She shared that some commissioners feel like the city should be in for half of the cost while at the same time noting that the population difference between the county and city does not dictate that the City of Elizabethton should be expected to be 50 percent partners.

“There is a conflict between the county and the city and the animal shelter is going to be caught in the middle and the ones to suffer is going to be my employees, it’s going to be a service, and mainly it’s going to be these animals that have no one to take care of them,” Posada commented.

“How much are you going to cut next year if you cut this much this year? They didn’t let us keep any money that we deposited or any of the $60,000 that we turned in this year.

“There is no way you can tell me that it’s over a dollar amount. Is it directed toward me – of course, it is. And that particular commissioner has made it well know. He wants to dictate that what he says goes. When you are a commissioner and when you are working in a community, there is no ‘I’ in team. If you don’t work together you have a disaster and that is what is getting ready to happen.”