The Bradley County Commission, with seven new members, came together for the first time as an official body Monday night, and unanimously named Louie Alford to be chairman of the Commission for another term.
Commissioner Robert Rominger made the motion to reappoint Alford and received a second from Commiss-ioner Charlotte Peak.
Absent any other nominations for the chair, the roll was called by County Clerk Donna Simpson and the vote was 14-0.
The Commission room broke into applause and Alford thanked his colleagues for “their confidence” and joked that when it came time “to start looking at committee [appointments], I may want to turn it over to somebody else.”
That is where the unanimity stopped for the night.
When nominations were called for the vice chairman post, Commissioner Milan Blake nominated Commissioner Jeff Yarber. The nomination was seconded by Peak.
Commissioner Thomas Crye nominated Commissioner Mark Hall, which was seconded by Commissioner Mike Hughes.
When the roll was called the vote was as follows: Terry Caywood - Yarber; Hughes - Hall; Alford - Yarber; Crye - Hall; Blake - Yarber; Johnny Mull - Yarber; Peak - passed; Howard Thompson - Yarber; Yarber - Yarber; Bobby Goins - Yarber; Dan Rawls - Yarber; Rominger - Hall; Hall - Hall; and Bill Winters - Hall.
The vote was eight for Yarber, five for Hall and one pass, giving Yarber the vice chairmanship.
Commissioners then moved to the agenda items with the first two regarding the county’s contract with the SPCA to run the county’s animal control.
Hall, who serves as a Commission representative on the SPCA board of directors, maintained a stern and blunt argument for terminating the agreement.
“The fact that we’re still discussing animal control five months after it was implemented is evidence of why we need to dissolve the relationship between the SPCA and Bradley County,” Hall said.
He said that for him to “turn a blind eye to a problem I know exists makes me asleep at the wheel.”
Hall said the issue is not as much about dogs and cats as about people.
“This issue absorbs less than 1 percent of our budget, but 90 percent of our time,” he said. “Bradley County has more business to take care of than animal control.”
He said he was embarrassed because he “also bought into the propaganda.”
After Hall made the motion to terminate the contract, Yarber gave a second.
Crye then offered a substitute motion to table Hall’s motion.
“After hearing the SPCA meeting tonight, it seems to me it is operating sufficiently at this time,” Crye said. “They have more animals coming out than going in. They have money in the bank account, so they’re not broke.”
He said since the contract was for a two-year term, the county would be forced to pay the remainder of the contract, even if the Commission decided to stop the arrangement.
“It takes both parties to agree to cancel the contract,” Crye said.
Rawls, who is also on the SPCA board, gave the second to Crye’s motion.
The vote was: Caywood - No; Hughes - Yes; Alford - Yes; Crye - Yes; Blake - Yes; Mull - Yes; Peak - No; Thompson - Yes; Goins - No; Yarber - No; Rawls - Yes; Rominger - Yes; Hall - No; and Winters - No.
That vote of 8-6 placed any question of termination in the future.
But Yarber’s agenda to issue a “notice to cure” to the SCPA — in essence, a warning to the organization that terms of the contract either are or have been violated along with a demand those violations be rectified — remained on the table.
Yarber rebutted Crye’s assertion it would take both parties to terminate the contract, saying that would be the case only if both parties agreed to the termination.
“This is basically saying, ‘We know you’ve violated the contract, so here’s your reprimand and you have 30 days to straighten it out,’” Yarber said.
He then made the motion which was seconded by Peak.
Crye then said his understanding is the SPCA is currently not in violation which Alford said was his understanding as well.
“It appears to me [any violation] is history and we have to wait until they violate the contract again,” he said.
Yarber said there had been an attempt to interpret the contract to mean “if they are taking animals on the day this Commission votes, they are not in violation.”
“So, you could never serve a notice to cure with that,” he said.
Rawls then noted the addition of former Commissioner Ed Elkins to the board and appointment as SPCA president, and requested he speak.
Peak said former SPCA board president Betti Gravelle had already admitted there was a violation.
“Commission needs to address there was a violation and send it to them, whether they’ve cured it or not,” Peak said.
Mull then spoke up in an attempt to recognize Elkins to speak, but Hall gained the floor first.
“This is a poor attempt to muddy the water,” Hall said. “Mr. Elkins had a chance to address this issue last week. He chose not to. He turned a blind eye to it and spent all of his time with recommendations to future commissioners on chairman, but failed to take care of the business at hand he was elected to do.
“This is a very poor attempt to camouflage the problem. He’s welcome to speak. He has a right to speak, but as far as I’m concerned my mind’s made up.”
Rawls then stated the SPCA was currently in “full compliance with the contract.”
“In fact, it is exceeding in compliance with the contract,” he said, drawing applause from attendees in the Commission meeting room.
Elkins said he felt the purpose of his selection to the SPCA board was to “try to channel all the members of the board to work together and I think we’ve already demonstrated that.”
He said the statement about a violation was “a true statement” and he felt the board took action to rectify that with the termination of former director Bobbi Anderson.
“A new director was selected and since then all the reports I’ve received ... numbers have shown a dramatic turnaround,” Elkins said.
Yarber said the Commission was working with blinders on “and not doing anything to watch our own back.”
Crye made a substitute motion to table Yarber’s motion which was seconded by Rawls, saying he has been told by some the county shelter “operates smoother and cleaner than what the city does.”
“I’m for giving them a shot at it,” Crye said.
That motion failed 9-5 with the following vote: Caywood - No; Hughes - Yes; Alford - Yes; Crye - Yes; Blake - No; Mull - No; Peak - No; Thompson - Yes; Goins - No; Yarber - No; Rawls - Yes; Rominger - Yes; Hall - No; and Winters - No.
Rawls said as a member of both bodies, “We are there to look out for the situation.”
“The situation is being handled better than it’s ever been handled and it’s exactly what we want them to do,” he said.
“There are people who are on this Commission that have been against this from the get-go and these agendas are pushed forward,” Rawls said. “I have no agenda here other than the fact I see what’s going on because I’m there.”
He said every commissioner who voted for Yarber’s motion “should be required to go and observe what’s going on there before you make that vote,” which drew another round of applause.
However, Yarber’s motion to send the notice passed 8-6 with Caywood, Blake, Mull, Peak, Goins, Yarber, Hall and Winters giving the “yes” votes to pass the motion.
Commissioners did vote to table the discussion on beginning the process of adopting new building codes until next week’s work session, at noon Monday in the Commission meeting room.