published Monday, November 11th, 2013

Nonprofit animal control on Bradley County Commission agenda

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — The Bradley County Commission plans to discuss its efforts to put county animal control into private hands when it meets Tuesday.

The search for private solutions to animal control began after a lapse in Bradley County's contact with the Cleveland Animal Shelter to provide animal pickup and dropoff services for residents outside city limits.

Those services -- which since temporarily have been restored -- ended July 1 over a disagreement about the county's portion of the animal shelter's proposed $662,000 budget for 2013-14.

"We have a two-pronged approach," said Commissioner Bill Winters, who serves on a couple of panels studying the issue, in a recent meeting.

Since September, an ad hoc committee of Bradley County officials has been engaged in discussions with two animal rescue groups -- The Ark of Cleveland and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Bradley County -- that responded to the county's request for a private partner to handle its animal control needs.

Both groups proposed to lease, renovate and convert a county garage on Johnson Boulevard next to Bradley County Juvenile Courts into a new animal shelter.

The Ark requested a $240,000 annual contribution from Bradley County to operate the shelter. The group said it planned to contract animal pickup services with the Cleveland Animal Shelter.

The SPCA of Bradley County requested $80,000 in annual financial support from the county to operate the shelter. The group said it planned to provide its own animal pickup staff.

Bradley County officials have requested concrete budget figures and other documentation from both groups.

The establishment of a second animal shelter in Bradley County has been questioned by both county and city officials.

Such a proposed move amounts to a duplication of services and creates more -- not less -- government, Bradley County Commissioner Jeff Yarber said.

City Councilman George Poe said he doesn't understand the need for a second operation when the Cleveland Animal Shelter has been doing so well, especially in regard to moving toward increased adoptions.

In a related but separate initiative, the county has asked the city to join it in partnership with a nonprofit organization.

The current proposal for such a measure will put the Cleveland Animal Shelter in the hands of a nonprofit group and leave animal pickup services with four city animal control officers. Bradley County and Cleveland would split the city personnel expenses and local government contributions to the participating nonprofit organization.

The cost for four animal control officers amounts to $303,629 annually, City Manager Janice Casteel said.

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

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