Council members voted 4-3 to reject the same offer from Bradley County at its June 10 meeting, but the Wednesday vote was 7-0.
Though the latest vote was unanimous, Council members expressed frustration over the strained relationship between the city and county.
At-Large Councilman George Poe said during discussion, “I would like everyone to know that I’m an animal lover and I hate to see them killed, but the problem is not the animals, it’s everything we’ve tried to cooperate with the last four years with the county. They went against anything that has to do with the city. I’m tired of begging. Take it however you want to, but when they will not cooperate with anything — anything that comes up, they don’t want to cooperate. Period.”
At-Large Councilman Richard Banks made the motion, seconded by Poe, to reject the county offer because it would not protect the animals in rural areas. He said 193 animals went to the pound in May and 135 were picked up by city staff in areas outside the city limits.
“I don’t think their proposal protects those 135 animals that were picked up by city staff outside the city in the county last month,” Banks said. “Therefore, based on the numbers I make a motion we reject what they’ve sent back.”
During discussion, Banks read an email questioning why the county does not have designated personnel with proper equipment and training to pick up animals outside the city.
“Without such an agreement, it is a death warrant for those county animals because, unfortunately, the majority of people will not take the time or make the effort to drop them off at the city shelter where they could at least have a chance of being adopted,” Banks stated as he read the letter. “Those abandoned animals in the county will die a needless death. I pray the county will take a position in the interest of the four-legged companions we all love.”
Banks also presented a motion to continue the “what we are doing now” to allow the county time to address the concerns stated in the email. Vice Mayor Avery Johnson initially seconded the motion but withdrew after discussion. The motion then died for lack of a second.
2nd District Councilman Bill Estes said there is no incentive for the county to pick up animals.
“Their incentive is to not pick them up,” he said.
“I want the general public to know we’ve done all we can,” Banks said.
“We have,” Estes said. “This is still a bad offer, Richard, because it’s for the animals ... and it’s not incentive (meant) for the animals.”
“I just want to be able to say I tried,” Banks said.
“I think we’ve tried for months and I think Janice [Casteel, city manager] has tried for months and wasted lots of hours — let’s just cut bait and let them handle their own problems,” Estes said.
He said Banks’ motion would be a continuation of the same bad deal because the larger percentage of animals come from outside the city.
“If we don’t run it and run it right, because we have the right motivation, then the citizens of Cleveland, again are not only paying both county and city, but they are paying a disproportionate amount,” Estes said. “If you vote for this, it is worse on the city taxpayers than what we have now.
“If people can’t read the paper, as well as it’s printed … we’ve done our job,” he said.
At the previous meeting, Banks proposed accepting the latest offer from the county for one year. Under that resolution, the county would have paid the city $167,139 to accept drop-offs from county residents.
The city and county began public discussions of the animal control contract in late February after Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis notified the city of its intent to terminate the animal control contract.
Davis wrote in the letter that he welcomes the opportunity to discuss options for entering into a new contract for animal control services that will be satisfactory to both parties.
The Council responded at the end of March stating the city would continue providing all of Bradley County with an animal shelter and provide for the needs of animals needing protection and adoption, and would continue to move toward being a so-called “no-kill city.”
In 2012, there were 1,687 animals from within the city and 3,114 animals from the county for a total of 4,801. Animal control officers responded to a total of 7,888 calls, of which 3,867 were in the city and 4,021 in the county. Overall, 56.2 percent of the animals and calls came from the county.
The city intended to divide the shares based on the proposed 2014 operating budget of $649,007 plus depreciation costs, which raised the amount to $663,174. After sales, fees and fines of $31,433 the net operating cost was estimated at $631,741. The county’s share would be 56.2 percent or $355,038.
The county’s offer was based on the previous year’s operating budget of $548,043. Under that proposal, the county share would be $298,455. The difference between the two proposals was the county would pay $56,583 less. Under the current scenario, the county will save $355,038.