CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Monday marked the end of animal pickup and drop-off services for Bradley County residents living outside Cleveland, the result of county and city officials' lack of agreement on how to split the expenses of the Cleveland Animal Shelter.
The issue has driven recent heated discussions among Bradley County commissioners.
"I know we're beating this animal contract thing to death, but the papers still have not got this right," Commissioner Charlotte Peak-Jones said. "I want everybody to understand in the public that the city sent us four options to choose from."
Just because the city provided multiple contract scenarios, it did not mean that any of them had been approved by the Cleveland City Council, Commissioner Jeff Yarber said.
The alternatives presented to the county broke down into two categories: options that retained all drop-off and pickup services outside Cleveland and options that eliminated animal pickup outside the city. In all options, the county's portion was based on the number of animals originating outside city limits that are dropped off by residents or picked up or otherwise responded to by animal control officers. County animals amount to about 60 percent of those numbers.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press has reported on those options since the spring, when county officials notified their city counterparts that they wished to renegotiate the animal control contact that would begin after the June 30 expiration of the existing agreement.
In May, Commissioners Jeff Morelock and Brian Smith joined Yarber in expressing favor with an option that retained all services but based the county's contribution on audited shelter budget numbers versus projected figures, as had been the case up until then. This alternative, which city leaders signaled they could accept, was estimated to cost the county $298,000 in the 2013-14 budget.
Instead, the County Commission voted 9-3 -- with Yarber, Morelock and Smith opposing -- to request a three-year agreement that would eliminate animal pickup outside the city, amounting to $167,000 for Bradley County's contribution to the shelter in the 2013-14 budget.
"We did not pick this option out of thin air and send it to the city to discuss," Peak-Jones said.
The City Council twice refused to accept the offer, with an initial 4-3 vote followed by a 7-0 vote when the County Commission asked it to reconsider.
The county's choice was considered to place an unfair burden on city taxpayers and hinder progress in attaining a "no-kill shelter," city leaders said.
Not having an animal shelter makes Bradley County like 45 other counties in the state, said Louie Alford, chairman of the County Commission. There are 95 counties in Tennessee.
Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.