Animal Shelter board seeks ‘meeting of the minds’ in regard to city, county agreement

Published 1:17 pm Tuesday, January 18, 2022

BY NIC MILLER
STAR STAFF
nic.miller@elizabethton.com

Members of the Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter Board of Directors are proposing a “meeting of the minds” to resolving lingering issues on an operating and funding agreement between city and county partners.

On Tuesday, Jan. 11, Animal Shelter Chairman Mike Barnett proposed a meeting between two representatives each of the city and county and one member of the animal shelter board in an attempt to resolve issues.

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“We need to have a sit down meeting with two members of the City Council, two members of the County Commission, and one member of the board to try and resolve this,” Barnett said.

Funding and operations of the shelter have been an ongoing issue between the city and county governments. The county commission approved a plan in late 2021, but city officials said it had not been approved by city leaders.

“The city mayor and the county mayor had a couple of meetings to discuss how we would move forward in drafting a new agreement in regard to the animal shelter,” said Daniel Estes, Elizabethton City Manager. “There was a proposed draft of the agreement written by the county attorney, and at the time that the county commission took up a vote on the agreement, it had not yet reached the City Council for consideration because it had not been fully negotiated by the two parties .”

At issue is the ownership of the land on which the animal shelter is located as well as the funding for operations of the shelter.

Ownership of the land was the first issue brought up in the agreement, which reads, “The parties hereto agree that the land on which the animal shelter is constructed and the adjoining grounds encompassing all improvements related to the animal shelter operations shall henceforth be equally owned by the parties. Therefore a survey shall be completed by the parties, for which they will equally share the cost, and the City shall deed a one half interest in the property to the County.”

The land in question would be needed in the event that the city’s wastewater plant needed to expand making it a challenge to deed half interest to the county.

Funding for the shelter was also brought up in the drafted two-year contract, stating, “The City and County acknowledge that the animal shelter will be of benefit to both City and County citizens, accordingly. The amount allocated for the animal shelter budget each year shall be funded 40 percent by the City and 60 percent by the County.”

In the August 2021 Commission meeting, the commission voted 21-1 to give the animal shelter $270,000 toward the 2021-2022 operating budget with the city’s agreement to contribute $150,000 for a total of $425,000. The animal shelter was to keep all donations as well.

The percentages were based on the calls made to the shelter between July 1, 2020, and July 1, 2021. There were a total of 1,336 calls, with 460 from the city and 876 from the county, for a 65-35 split, according to Mayor Curt Alexander.

The main concern for the City of Elizabethton comes from a lack of communication, as city officials were not able to meet with the county and discuss possible revisions to the agreement. “All we really have is a proposal from the county, one that the commission approved,” Estes said during the board’s meeting.

“Hypothetically, if the City passes their own version of the contract and approves it, will the County Commission take that up and approve it,” Estes said. “Then we will be right back where we are.”

“The real issue is, that if the parties wish to have a matter changed, they need to negotiate. And to do that, you have to talk,” Estes continued.

Both the City of Elizabethton and Carter County operate on Fiscal year calendars, meaning a resolution between the parties will need to be made before the next fiscal year begins on July 1.

The Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter remains open and has been a source of debate within the County Commission.

The Animal Shelter Board proposed a meeting with both County and City officials in hopes to resolve the issue, and the board will attempt to set up that meeting in the near future.