ERWIN — Officials with the town of Erwin said it would be less costly for the town of operate its own animal shelter than it would to continue providing funding to the current Unicoi County Animal Shelter, and at Monday’s meeting of the Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen, aldermen voted to proceed in this direction.
The board voted 5-1 Monday not to contribute to the Unicoi County Animal Welfare Board’s budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year. This move would effectively opt Erwin out of an interlocal agreement in which Unicoi County’s three governmental entities — the county, the town of Erwin and the town of Unicoi — contribute to the animal welfare board’s budget.
Erwin Mayor Doris Hensley said the animal welfare board previously submitted a request to the town of Erwin seeking a 3 percent increase in the town’s contribution for the 2013-14 fiscal year. Erwin Town Recorder Randy Trivette said the animal welfare board also verbally requested additional funding that would go toward 2 percent raises for animal shelter employees. In all, the animal welfare board was seeking more than $23,000 in increased funding from the town of Erwin.
Hensley said the topic was discussed at length at last month’s board of mayor and aldermen strategic planning retreat in Pigeon Forge. Hensley said Erwin officials also had some issues with how the animal welfare board intended to use the town’s animal control officer.
“At that time, it was our feelings that we thought that we could better use our money by going back to our own animal shelter,” Hensley said.
Hensley also said it would be less costly for the town to establish a new shelter, as it already has the property and already budgets the salary of and provides equipment and a vehicle to the town’s animal control officer. The town’s animal control officer would work under the guidance and supervision of the Erwin town recorder.
“I think we would be saving money by going back out on our own as opposed to entering into an agreement or partnership with the other two entities,” Hensley said.
The current Unicoi County Animal Shelter opened a little more than five years ago. The town of Erwin’s dog pound operated for a number of years prior to the current shelter’s opening.
“It will basically be going back and providing the same service we did before, which is what we’re doing now, we just have to pay an extra $24,000 a year to provide the same service we’ve always provided before in the town of Erwin,” Trivette said.
Trivette said the town still has the dog cages from when it operated its own pound, and those could be reinstalled. Plans call for the Erwin shelter to be located where it was previously located on North Industrial Drive.
This would serve as the shelter for at least a couple of years. Per a previously approved agreement between the town and Erwin Utilities, Erwin Utilities is to construct new restrooms near the Erwin Linear Trail and Kiwanis Playground along North Industrial Drive. After this is completed, Erwin Utilities could claim the property. But Hensley said there is adequate space at the town’s public works department if the shelter needs to be relocated in the future.
As was the case in the past, dogs will be available for adoption at the town’s shelter, and the town will attempt to locate the owners of dogs rounded up within Erwin’s limits, Trivette said. He said animals would be transported elsewhere for euthanasia. Trivette also said that according to the town’s ordinance, cats are considered more a “nuisance.”
If the town receives a call about a cat, the town will use its nuisance violation ordinance to encourage cat owners to keep the animals on their property. He said the town will work with violators, but violators could be cited in court under the ordinance.
Alderman Robie Sullins moved that the town not contribute to the animal welfare board’s 2013-14 budget. This motion was seconded by Alderman Gary Edwards.
“I think we’re saving a lot of money for our animal control officer to do what he’s been doing anyway,” Sullins said. “I think it would be very prudent for the city to just maintain our own.”
Alderman Sue Jean Wilson cast the dissenting vote.
“You do realize the citizens of the town of Erwin also pay county taxes, and this is going to increase the burden on the county,” Wilson said to the board.
In other business, the board:
• Approved an administrative agreement with First Tennessee Development District for adminstrative service with the Local Park and Recreation Funding Grant the town is seeking for the skate plaza and playground planned to be located along Nolichucky Avenue.
• Approved two maintenance agreements with the Tennessee Department of Transportation. In one, the town would be paid $11,849 to maintain state highways within Erwin’s limits. In the other, TDOT would pay the town around $50,800 for litter pickup and mowing along the portion of Interstate 26 passing through the town.
• Approved the first reading of an ordinance to create a downtown overlay including design standards and guidelines and create a design review commission to review development within the established overlay.
• Approved construction of an additional entryway to the Erwin Post Office from Tucker Street as part of the downtown revitalization plan.
n Approved a contract of acknowledgement of Mountain States Health Alliance’s contribution of $750,000 to the town, which was part of MSHA’s proposal to acquire Unicoi County Memorial Hospital. Trivette said the mayor will be able to sign this contract when MSHA’s pending acquisition of UCMH closes.