When it comes to providing animal control services, officials in the town of Erwin think they can do it cheaper on their own. The Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen has voted to end its funding to the Unicoi County Animal Welfare Board’s budget.
As Press Erwin Bureau Chief Brad Hicks reported June 11, the board’s 5-1 decision removes Erwin from a intergovernmental agreement with Unicoi County and the town of Unicoi to share the cost of funding the Unicoi County Animal Shelter.
Erwin Mayor Doris Hensley said she and her colleagues decided the town could save money by running its own animal shelter. She said the board came to this conclusion during a strategic planning retreat in Pigeon Forge last month.
“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.
At issue, the mayor said, is the $23,000 in additional funding the animal board has requested from the town for the new fiscal year. Hensley said it would be cheaper for the town to establish a new shelter since it has the property to do so and because the town already funds the salary for its animal control officer. Hensley said Erwin’s animal control officer would now answer to the 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 told her colleagues June 10.
Erwin closed its animal shelter when the Unicoi County Animal Shelter opened a little more than five years ago. Unicoi County Animal Shelter Director Jessica Blevins said last week her organization was “completely blindsided” by Erwin’s decision to pull its funding from the shelter.
Despite the insistence of Erwin leaders that the town can operate its own animal control program cheaper than contributing to the award-winning Unicoi County shelter, some wonder what level of services will actually be available to town residents. Will the Erwin program offer educational programs to encourage owners to spay or neuter their pets? What about cats, which town officials consider to be a “nuisance?”
The way it was described by town officials last week, the proposed Erwin animal control program sounds more like an early 20th century “dog pound” than a professionally operated animal shelter.
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