published Sunday, March 24th, 2013

Bradley County leaders to consider animal control options

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Animal control services for Bradley County residents who live outside the Cleveland city limits are on the table for renegotiation.

On Monday, county commissioners are expected to review a number of options for reducing the county's animal control costs, some of which could involve the loss of animal pickup services outside the city.

"I'm hoping we can come to an agreement," Bradley County Commissioner Jeff Morelock said. "Right now I'm just studying our options."

In February, the Bradley County Commission voted not to renew automatically the county's animal control service agreement with the city. Several commissioners said they questioned the basis of the city's billing.

According to the renewal notice and budget analysis provided by the Cleveland Animal Shelter to the county, the city allocates expenses between the city and county based on the number of animals it processes and the number of animal pickups it makes inside and outside city limits. Based on those calculations, 60 percent of animal drop-offs and pickups originate in the county, which translates into the county paying for 60 percent of the animal shelter's operational budget.

Since then, Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis and Cleveland City Manager Janice Casteel have been working on some alternative agreement proposals.

One option is for the county to pay $298,455 next year, which is what it is paying for animal control services in the current fiscal year. If the county had renewed its agreement automatically, that amount would be $390,576. Under this plan, no changes would be made in services, which still would include animal pickup outside city limits.

The other choices eliminate animal pickup services outside city limits, but they vary in how the expenses are calculated and allocated.

One option -- which takes into account whether an animal originates within the city or county and the number of pickups made within the city -- would amount to a $167,139 annual bill to Bradley County.

The other alternative takes into account only whether the animals come from within or outside the city; it does not consider vehicle-related costs for animal pickups in the city. This option would cost the county $301,762.

City officials expressed some surprise and concern about the county's move to renegotiate the animal control agreement.

"It sounds like the county has had a pretty good deal," Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland said earlier this month.

Casteel said illegal after-hour animal drop-offs are expected to increase if the county drops pickup services outside city limits.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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