Bradley County commissioners reinforced their support of the SPCA-run county animal shelter and that it has actually saved Cleveland taxpayers dollars when looking at the big picture.
The discussion was spurred by comments made by Cleveland City Councilman-At-Large Richard Banks during the last City Council meeting, as reported in Friday’s edition of the Cleveland Daily Banner.
Banks said city taxpayers are funding two shelters.
“Over half the tax that goes to the county revenue is from the city,” Banks said. “We are paying for two animal shelters.”
Under the new arrangement, the county makes an annual donation to the SPCA in return for operating the county shelter.
First District Commissioner Ed Elkins said on his first read of the comments he agreed with Banks.
“After I did my analysis on this I found it interesting that in 2012 Bradley County paid $325,000, of which city residents roughly paid half of that — $162,500 — in addition to what they paid through their city taxes,” Elkins said.
He added the numbers were the same in 2013.
“In 2014, the original budget request was for $325,000, then that was changed to $180,000 because of our discussion about cancelling our contract with the city,” Elkins said.
He said $120,000 was paid to the city for six months of a contract and SPCA was paid $86,700 of which roughly $40,000 went for county shelter renovations.
“It looks like the request for 2015 is $80,000,” Elkins said.
He said the article left the impression city residents were “having to pay a lot more money to animal control groups.”
“By my analysis, it looks like we, the county, have actually saved the city residents quite a bit of money because instead of splitting $325,000, our total cost in 2014 is $207,000,” Elkins said. “Splitting that is $103,500 instead of $162,500, so [the city] saved about $62,000 in 2014 by us making the decision we made.”
He said assuming the 2015 number of $80,000 remains in the budget, “that would mean city residents would pay $40,000 of that.”
“The difference between $40,000 and $162,500 is $120,500 [the city] is going to save for the 2015 fiscal year,” Elkins said. “Folks in the city need to understand how much money we have saved them by doing what we’re doing.
“If they want to save more money, they could possibly close down the Cleveland animal shelter and contract with the SPCA group, and they could save another $325,000,” Elkins said.
Fourth District Commissioner Charlotte Peak-Jones, who also serves on the SPCA board, said the community needs to begin supporting the SCPA’s efforts with the shelter.
“If everybody would get behind this organization, it will work,” Peak-Jones said. “It’s being proven it works.”
She said the county facility has not turned away any animals from within the city.
“We are taking county and city animals. We still have room. We’re still adopting them out and they are going to homes. We are a non-kill facility and when you walk in to the city of Cleveland’s facility, the first thing they tell you when you go to surrender an animal there is they are a “kill” facility, and [then will] hand out directions and a phone number to SCPA’s facility on Johnson Boulevard,” she said.
Third District Commissioner Jeff Morelock said while the county setup “is not perfect, I think it’s doing a good job.”
“The SPCA is trying to treat these animals like they are God’s creatures,” Morelock said. “I don’t see why the city couldn’t just close down their animal control shelter themselves and let Bradley County provide the shelter because everybody in Bradley County is a county taxpayer. I hope we’re going toward that.”
First District Commissioner Terry Caywood asked residents to “please be patient.”
“Rome wasn’t built in a day,” he said. “We have some capable people doing a job that is so caring and they want this to succeed and save us money. They are so passionate about animals.”
Caywood agreed with Moreland things were not perfect but added, “We’re getting there.”
“When you have people who spend endless hours and do not get paid for it, they have to care or they wouldn’t be doing it,” Caywood said.
n Commissioners also passed a resolution proposed by Commission Vice Chairman J. Adam Lowe requesting assistance from state and federal leaders to work with the U.S. Forest Service to “maintain the local parks and keep them open to the public” as well as unblocking access to campsites within Cherokee National Forest.
The document comes from Lowe’s discovery of park closures when friends of his went to the Tumbling Creek campground area during spring break and found access blocked and facilities removed.
A similar resolution has been passed by the Polk County Commission.
Commissioners also recognized Bradley County Finance Director Lynn Burns for having been awarded by the Government Finance Officers Association with their Distinguished Budget Presentation Award.
“You hear this every year and get accustomed to this, but a lot of work goes into our budget which, in my opinion, separates our budgets with those of other counties,” said Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis.
“If you looked back at older budgets that were done before we had Lynn Burns doing our budgets, you will see the work. The numbers were always right, but the additional things that are done to get this recognition is a lot more work,” he said.
He said this year’s award is the sixth consecutive win by Burns.
She received plaques and a round of applause from the commissioners and the audience.