News Briefs:

Animal control help could come from Loudon
Blount County could be getting help from Loudon County in dealing their animal control issues.

During the Animal Control Committee meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 10, the committee asked for proposals from the public
and from groups to run and finance an animal shelter.

Blount County Mayor Jerry Cunningham said the genesis of the idea to work with Loudon County was from Steve Phipps with Blount County Humane Society. Cunningham said he would speak with Loudon County Mayor Doyle Arp to see if their animal control staff would be willing to contract with Blount County to house stray animals through the end of June.

Steve Phipps with the Blount County Humane Society researched the idea, but said something would still have to happen
long term. "This is a short-term plan," he said. "I don’t think we can depend on the good graces of another county."

Cunningham said if a new facility is built, commissioner Gary Farmer’s Heritage High School building trade class could help construct at least a temporary facility. "A lot of (of Loudon’s willingness to help) depends on where their capacities are," he said. "They have to take care of their resident’s first."

Rick Yeager with the animal rescue group ArfNets, echoed those sentiments.

"The only concern I have is a five-month fix really isn’t a fix," Yeager said. "The big concern is, it’s going to take a year and a half (to build a new shelter). Part of the short-term solutions could be initiation of licensing fees. Definitely a five-month contract is a good start, but I’d like to see something longer."

Yeager said that while he supported volunteers helping strays, the work of an animal control officer wasn’t something a volunteer had authority to do, so the county needed to find a way to fund that position. "I just think it would be more beneficial to have an animal control officer than a volunteer," he said.

Linda King of Laws Chapel Road, Maryville, disagreed with the idea of licensing fees. "My first concern is taxation. I’ve talked to people in the community who are against licensing," she said. "I think there’s enough expense in taking animals off the street."

Chris Protzman of Maryville said he would like to see a facility in Blount County similar to the Young-Williams facility in Knoxville. He supported the idea of a licensing fee to help pay for animal control. "We have to think larger than $10 and another tax; $10 is not a terrible tax for the ability to have animal control," he said.

Phipps said he was 100 percent supportive of licensing. "My suggestion is we make it voluntary licensing," he said. "Connect it to supporting what you want to accomplish."

In June, 2006, Maryville asked the county to double the $138,000 it was giving the city to provide the county’s animal control services. When the county refused, they went to a month-to-month contract that ended Dec. 31. The animal control situation became a topic of concern after the commission failed to fund animal control services for the rest of the 2006-07 fiscal year that ends June 30.

Rules of commission: Proposal moves ‘items not on the agenda’ to end of meeting
If commissioners approve a revision of their rules discussed Tuesday night, Jan. 16, individuals wanting to speak to items not on the agenda will have to wait until the end of full commission meetings to do so.

An ad hoc committee of commissioners met to examine the commission rules after a commissioner proposed eliminating public input on non-agenda items from the meeting and sending them to committee meetings. After another inconsistency in commission rules was brought to light, the committee was charged with an examination of the entire set of rules.

Many of the planned changes discussed at Tuesday night’s meeting were more or less routine. One modification was changing references to a county executive to county mayor and eliminating calls for commissioners to stand when they speak.

The proposal to drop public input on non-agenda items was protested before the last commission meeting by a group of citizens and caused lively discussion at the meeting. Commissioner Holden Lail offered the proposal in December, which was then sent to the ad-hoc committee. The committee did agree, however, to move that input to the end of the meeting after the panel’s agenda business is dispensed with.

Commissioner Mike Walker pointed out at the last regular commission meeting that under current commission rules it takes a two-thirds majority to suspend the rules for one meeting but only a simple majority to change a rule permanently, an apparent imbalance in priority.

In the revised rules, both would require a two-thirds vote for approval - 14 of the 21 commissioners.

The third major adjustment in the rules would call for all items to be placed on the agenda at least five working days prior to
the commission’s meeting with all supporting documentation.

During the Tuesday meeting, the committee members (Dr. Robert Ramsey, Tonya Burchfield, Gary Farmer, Dr. Bob Proffitt and Steve Samples) painstakingly went over the entire set of rules, tweaking, clarifying and updating them one by one.

Other commissioners present were Wendy Pitts Reeves, David Ballard, Kenneth Melton and Ronald French. County Mayor Jerry Cunningham also attended.

The committee took no vote, but agreed to meet again and examine a revised copy of the rules before submitting it to the full commission for approval it its February meeting.

Sheriff’s Records Office, Circuit Court Clerk’s Office to offer extended hours
The Blount County Sheriff’s records office and the Blount County Circuit Court Clerk’s office recently announced new extended Friday hours. Sheriff James Berrong and Circuit Court Clerk Tom Hatcher made the announcement in late December and the move took effect earlier this year.

According to a press release, both offices now remain open until 6 p.m. on Friday’s only.

The extended hours are being offered to assist Blount County citizens who work and find it difficult to conduct court and Sheriff’s Office business during normal working hours, the release said.

Diversity Council kicks off year at MLK celebrations
The Twin City Diversity Council marked its beginning by participating in the Martin Luther King Day celebration and march at Maryville College.

The students from Alcoa and Maryville high schools met at 9:30 a.m. Monday at Maryville College’s Multicultural Center for introductions and a light breakfast. The Rev. Paula McGee was to address them before they attended lunch. In the afternoon, they participated in the community march from the Martin Luther King Center.

Maryville and Alcoa high school students formed this group after they became concerned about increasing cultural tension in the community. The purpose of the Twin City Diversity Council is to promote tolerance and education concerning issues such as race, religion, sexuality, socioeconomic class and gender.

All members of the Twin City Diversity Council make it their goal to model tolerance, open-mindedness and a desire to expand their appreciation of diversity.

Students from Alcoa High School include Amanda Bishop, Brittany Carr, Jennifer Chin, Adam Graves, Semetria Henderson, Ashley Kilgore, Jackie Midkiff, Lester Parker, Alan Prigmore, Tori Tate, Shenoria Quarles, and Sharika Wilson.

Students from Maryville High School include Tonay Allen, Ben Brewer, Miriam Budayr, Erin Cawthorn, Jordan Dabney, Lucia Hulsether, Maia Kane, Anthony Merriman, Justin Smith, and Megan Webb.

Seniors on the council are in charge of coordinating club events. Paula McGhee, director of diversity programming at Maryville College, serves as the group’s advisor.

Alcoa principal Scott Porter and Maryville principal Ken Jarnigan are also helping facilitate and support the council’s activities.

Students will meet for monthly meetings in the Maryville College Multicultural Center.

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