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Unicoi Co. Animal Shelter's new task: Find 2 new countywide animal control officers

Brad Hicks • Dec 11, 2013 at 11:17 AM

UNICOI — Early into Tuesday’s meeting of the Unicoi County Animal Welfare Board, board Chair Kari Pfaender recounted what she said to Erwin town officials after they voted Monday to approve a proposal to resolve the funding issue that has brought months of uncertainty to the Unicoi County Animal Shelter.

“I told them, I said ‘It’s amazing how God works in his mysterious ways’ because if all this hadn’t taken place, we wouldn’t be in the position we are right now which, I think, is better than what we started out with, way better,” she said. “ ... It just all worked out. It was wonderful.”

But now that the new agreement is in place, the Animal Welfare Board and animal shelter officials have a new issue to tackle — the hiring of two full-time countywide animal control officers.

On Monday, the Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved a measure to enter into an interlocal agreement with Unicoi County to have the county provide animal control services for the town. This move will also keep Erwin from opening its own shelter separate from the Unicoi County Animal Shelter.

According to the original interlocal agreement enacted to establish the county shelter, each of the county’s governmental entities was to contribute equal annual funding to the Animal Welfare Board to go toward the county’s shelter. In June, the Erwin board voted to cut its contribution to the Animal Welfare Board in the 2013-14 fiscal year and follow through with plans for the town to operate its own separate shelter.

In July, the Erwin board voted to restore half of the approximately $23,000 sought by the Animal Welfare Board in the 2013-14 fiscal year and, if a funding solution was reached by Jan. 1, the town would contribute the other half of the funding for the current fiscal year. This was agreed to with the board’s Monday vote.

Beginning in the 2014-15 fiscal year, each of Unicoi County’s three governments will contribute around $43,250 to the county which will then be dispersed to the county’s shelter. Although that aspect of the agreement will begin with the new fiscal year, other caveats will begin sooner, according to Unicoi County Mayor Greg Lynch, who was present at Tuesday’s Animal Welfare Board meeting. One such aspect is the employment of the two animal control officers.

Per the new agreement, Erwin will abolish its animal control officer position, saving the town roughly $40,000 per year. The county’s animal control officer, Tim Shelton, submitted his two-week notice to shelter officials last week. His resignation was accepted at Tuesday’s meeting, and his final day on the job will be Friday.

The shelter will now begin accepting applications for the animal control officer positions, which will soon be advertised. Animal shelter officials will conduct the interviews and select from the field of candidates. Since the officers will technically be county employees, the county will be made aware of the candidates selected.

“Since they’re ultimately going to be county employees, it probably wouldn’t hurt for it to somehow be run by me, not that I would change anything,” Lynch said.

Until the new officers are hired, animal control in Unicoi County will be handled by shelter staff, according to UCAS Director Jessica Blevins-Rogers.

According to the new agreement, the two full-time officers will be employed by the county and act under the direction of the UCAS director for daily duties. The officers will be expected to assist with cleaning and maintenance of the shelter and will provide “24/7” coverage for the entire county, including the town of Unicoi.

One officer is to be on-duty or on-call at all times, and all calls will come through the animal shelter or directly to the officer on-call.

Pfaender said Tuesday that shelter officials hope to fill the animal control officer positions “as soon as possible.”

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