Erwin board OKs resolution on animal shelter

Brad Hicks • Dec 9, 2013 at 9:57 PM

ERWIN — Nearly six months to the day that the Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted to sever its funding to the Unicoi County Animal Welfare Board, and effectively the Unicoi County Animal Shelter, the board lent its approval to a proposal that will resolve the funding issue.

On Monday, the board unanimously voted to enter into an interlocal agreement with Unicoi County to have the county provide animal control services for the town of Erwin. Through this measure, Erwin will not proceed with the operation of its own separate shelter independent from the current county animal shelter.

Through the approved agreement, two full-time animal-control officers would be employed by the county and act under the direction of the shelter director. Duties for both officers would included cleaning and maintenance of the shelter. The officers would provide “24/7” coverage for countywide animal control, and one officer is to be on-duty or on-call at all times for animal control-related calls.

“In doing that, that would mean that the town of Erwin would abolish the animal control department,” Erwin Mayor Doris Hensley said. “We would be out of the animal control business all the way.”

Two part-time positions at UCAS would be cut, decreasing overall shelter wages by around $8,100, which would be used to help with the cost of the second full-time animal control officer.

Per the agreement, the town of Erwin would contribute $43,247.05 annually beginning in the 2014-15 fiscal year, the same amount that is to be contributed by Unicoi County’s other governmental entities — the county and the town of Unicoi.

The original interlocal agreement enacted about seven years ago to establish the shelter said each of the county’s three governmental entities was to contribute equal annual funding to the Animal Welfare Board to go toward the county’s new shelter. The Animal Welfare Board sought approximately $23,000 in funding from each of the governments in the 2013-14 fiscal year.

In June, the Erwin board voted not to contribute its share of the funding to the Animal Welfare Board in the new fiscal year, instead opting to move forward with plans to operate its own shelter.

The following month, the board voted to provide one-half, or $11,635, of the originally requested funding to the Animal Welfare Board. Per the measure, if a funding solution was reached by Jan. 1, the town would contribute the other half of the funding for the remainder of the 2013-14 fiscal year.

Hensley said she has since met with the other mayor within the county and proposed that the county take over animal control services and provide these service for the town of Erwin. She said Unicoi County Mayor Greg Lynch and town of Unicoi Mayor Johnny Lynch were agreeable to the proposal.

The town of Erwin was spending around $82,000 per year on animal control, which included the salary of the town’s animal control officer. Through the agreement approved Monday, the town would save around $40,000 annually by eliminating its animal control position, Hensley said.

Aside from the $11,635 contribution for the remainder of this fiscal year, the town of Erwin will also contribute $6,725 to make up a shortfall for the shelter. The new agreement asks that monies contributed by the county’s governments be used for wages of animal control officers and shelter staff, and that the funds be paid directly to the county, which would allow for an audit of the shelter.

Operational funds are to continue to come from program income and public support generated by the shelter. The shelter is to provide a yearly budget and monthly and annual financial statements to the county’s governmental bodies for these operational funds.

The board also voted to donate the town’s animal control truck and equipment to the shelter for its use.

Following the vote, Unicoi County Animal Welfare Board Chair Kari Pfaender said the proposal was satisfactory to both those on her board and at the shelter.

“We are ecstatic, the way it all worked out, the whole proposal,” she said.

The board also voted to allow engineering firm Tysinger, Hampton and Partners to proceed with design work on the second phase of the town’s downtown revitalization project.

The second phase of the project is set to cover the area of Main Avenue from Gay Street to Union Street and include streetscape, stormwater and utility improvements. Before this work begins, flood mitigation work along Union Street must be completed. Water flowing down to Nolichucky Avenue during heavy rains would be diverted into a nearby box culvert.

The estimated cost of design, permitting assistance and construction services fees for Phase II and the flood-mitigation project is $171,200. Design work is slated to begin later this month, with construction on the second phase beginning in March.

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