published Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

Bradley County, Tenn., animal control panel members challenge fails

Bradley County Commissioner Jeff Yarber.
Bradley County Commissioner Jeff Yarber.
Photo by Paul Leach /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- An attempt to change Bradley County representation on an ad hoc committee seeking animal control solutions for the county has failed.

County residents living outside Cleveland city limits have been without animal control services since July 1 because the Bradley County Commission and the Cleveland City Council did not agree on the county's portion of the city animal shelter budget.

On Monday, the County Commission voted 12-2 to confirm the selection of Commissioners Charlotte Peak-Jones and Bill Winters for the committee made by Commission Chairman Louie Alford last week.

The confirmation was instead of a motion made by Commissioner Jeff Yarber to replace Winters with Commissioner Jeff Morelock. Commissioner Brian Smith and Yarber voted against the confirmation.

The problem with Alford's selections, said Yarber, was that they did not include a commissioner who had expressed favor for an animal control contract that the Cleveland council signaled it could accept during negotiations earlier in the year.

Yarber also questioned Alford's prerogative as chairman to simply make his selections without asking for confirmation and then schedule the first meeting of the committee before the commission could vote on the matter.

"That's basically saying, 'I don't care what you say, I'm going to do what I want to,' and I don't think that's the way it should be," said Yarber.

Alford and Yarber said that the other had acted disrespectfully.

Alford was within his rights to make the selections, said Bradley County Attorney Crystal Freiberg.

In May, Morelock and Smith joined Yarber in favoring an agreement that retained all animal pickup and drop-off services for county residents that based the county's contribution on audited shelter numbers. That figure was estimated to cost the county $298,000 for the 2013-14 fiscal year.

Instead, the County Commission voted 9-3 -- with Morelock, Smith and Yarber opposing -- to request an agreement that would eliminate pickup services outside city limits but allow all county residents to drop off animals at the shelter. This option amounted to a $167,000 contribution to the shelter budget for 2013-14.

The county's portion of the animal control budget was based on the percentage of animals and service calls originating outside city limits in all agreement scenarios. In recent years that was about 60 percent of the shelter's budget, but that percentage was estimated to drop significantly with the elimination of animal pickup services outside Cleveland.

The proposed budget for the shelter surpassed $600,000 and included $400,000 in personnel expenses.

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

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