Hamilton County Commissioners this morning grilled the Humane Educational Society animal shelter, an outside agency requesting $407,113 in funding.
Commissioners Joe Graham and Greg Beck asked Executive Director Guy Bilyeu why they should support the agency when it serves rural areas outside city limits. Much of Beck and Graham's districts are in the city of Chattanooga, which has its own animal control service.
"Do you realize they're Hamilton County taxpayers also?" Graham asked Bilyeu.
Bilyeu said the organization does provide backup services to the city. Beck asked for more clarity about what those services are.
"We're talking about being able to help a citizen who has a problem with a dog or cat hanging around," Beck said. "Will you come out to district 6 or district 5 or district 4 and help us out with animal problems?"
Bilyeu said the Humane Educational Society would not come out and pick up an animal. It would provide other services like food and free spay and neuter programs.
Afterward, Bilyeu said he understood the commission is in a tight budget year.
"Quite honestly it'd be far more expensive if we service the city," Bilyeu said. He said the educational society's budget is less than $1 million, and said budgets for shelters of a similar size are between $3 and $5 million.
He said those commissioners who have more city residents in their districts would be serving people in their districts who live in unincorporated areas. Tai Federico, board president for the Humane Educational Society, said commissioners are getting a bargain for the money they provide.
Dan Whisenhunt covers Hamilton County government for the Times Free Press. A native of Mobile, Ala., Dan earned a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Alabama. He won first place for best in-depth news coverage in the 2010 Alabama Press Association contest; the FOI-First Amendment Award in the 2007 Alabama Press Association contest; first place for best public service story in the Alabama AP Managing Editors contest in 2009 for economic coverage; and ...