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Commission to vote on animal shelter

Gary B. Gray • Feb 2, 2012 at 9:10 AM

About one week after finding a new site for the Washington County/Johnson City Animal Shelter, the City Commission will vote tonight to allocate $350,000 for the shelter’s relocation.

The Washington County Commission’s Health and Welfare Committee has recommended that the County Commission approve a matching amount, but an official verdict has not been announced and it may be the county’s immediate needs override writing that check.

“I’ve heard (county) commissioners express concerns about this,” County Mayor Dan Eldridge said Wednesday. “It’s a $350,000 allocation. That’s why I’ve been so adamant about getting all the information about this out on the table. We have at least a dozen capital projects to consider. At this point, it’s not a done deal.”

Heyward and Cherry Sell, the owners of 6.6 acres at 3411 N. Roan St. have agreed to sell the property for $500,000. But commissioners are expected only to vote on the recommendation to allocate the $350,000 to the Animal Control Board, not on a sales agreement — that will be the next step in the process.

Several options exist regarding the purchase.

It looks now like the city will give its allocation to the board which would then buy the property and use what is left over from the city/county match, and its own funds, to begin construction on a new facility. But the city also may buy the property and lease it to the board.

“It’s a great location with easy accessibility,” said Debbie Dobbs, shelter director. “I was told by the full County Commission when we went in front of them that their $350,000 would come from its sale of the Downtown Centre ($1 million).”

But Dobbs said she also was told the county’s financial participation was contingent on a full commitment by the city — a commitment the city apparently has followed through on.

“Whatever is left over will go toward building a new shelter,” Dobbs added. “The Animal Control Board has about $186,000 in its building fund, but we have full confidence in both the city and county commissions.”

After a review of seven proposals, a committee comprised of city staff, a TDOT representative and various stakeholders has selected North Carolina’s Alta/Greenways’ proposal to design the Johnson City Rails to Trails Master Plan for review by commissioners.

If accepted, its bid of about $99,000 would cover extensive planning, design, permitting, easement reviews, public mitigation and much more. Company representatives walked “The Tweetsie Trail” in September. The proposal maps out in writing possible linkages to the Elizabethton Linear Path along the Watauga River, the State of Franklin multi-use trail in Johnson City, local parks and the Appalachian Trail.

The proposal explains the company would kick things off on the front end by meeting with the Johnson City Metropolitan Planning Organization to develop a guideline for future meetings and the establishment of a steering committee. The trail will be developed on 10 miles of unused rail line between Johnson City and Elizabethton.

Commissioners also will consider a contract with Florida-based ESA Renewables for the installation of more than 20 solar-powered panels on various schools and city facilities.

The city stands to reap about $1.5 million in the 10-year initial agreement through TVA’s Generation Partners Program. City officials want to use ground and rooftop photovoltaic systems that convert solar radiation into direct current electricity. But the contract needs to go into motion soon, because ESA must have the systems up and operating by April 17.

Meanwhile, commissioners also will review a nearly $96,000 bid by Johnson City’s Rainey Contracting for the demolition and rebuilding of the left-field wall at Cardinal Park. This bid, which bests the most recent offering of more than $162,000 by Knoxville’s Rentenbach Constructors does not include any new lighting.

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