The Blount County Commission on Sept. 18 asked Mayor Jerry Cunningham to approach the city of Maryville about taking back animal control in the county.
Commissioners also tabled a motion to dissolve the Ethics Committee and voted to rescind a beer board vote that denied a Blount County woman a beer permit.
Discussion about the animal control situation began after Frank Lucas of Blount County stood to ask the county commission to do something about a puppy mill he said was being run on property next to his house in a subdivision.
“The barking is unbearable. There are 10 big dogs in four pens. They are breeding stock. The smell is horrific. This is the most egregious thing I ever witnessed in my entire life,” he said.
Lucas said he was disappointed in the response he had gotten from county authorities up to that point. “I’ve never heard so many people say, ‘It’s not my job,’ “ he said.
Commissioner Ron French said he spoke with Mayor Jerry Cunningham at length Thursday morning regarding the issue. French said three options were discussed for dealing with animal control: contract with the City of Maryville to handle animal control, hire a second full-time animal control personnel to investigate matters such as the alleged puppy mill or give 10 more hours to the part-time employee who is currently assisting the one full-time animal control officer.
“She could use the 10 hours to investigate these incidents,” French said.
French said bringing the part-time person up to full-time was to cost $11,000, with $5,000 more in pay and $6,000 to cover benefits.
“It’s a thorny issue,” Cunningham said of animal control. “I wish we had kept the contract with Maryville. That looks like a bargain, based on what I’ve seen the past year.”
Commissioner Gary Farmer made a motion to give Cunningham authority to speak with the City of Maryville about contracting with them to manage animal control in the county.
Commissioner Mike Walker asked what would happen to money and services already committed to the building of a new animal facility behind the Boys and Girls Club in Eagleton.
Cunningham said there could be two options in approaching the city. The county could contract with them to do animal control in the county using their current facility off Home Avenue, he said, or the county could build the facility already planned for in Eagleton and contract with the City of Maryville to run it.
Commissioner Monika Murrell said she wanted something done soon. “Let’s get relief for the citizens and get help on the streets,” she said.
The motion to allow Cunningham to speak with Maryville regarding the issue was approved. The motion also approved $11,000 to move a part-time animal control officer to full-time status.
During discussion for naming members to the Ethics Committee, Commissioner Scott Helton made a motion to disband the committee. He said the committee has no authority to hire an attorney, yet needs one to determine whether ethics complaints were valid or not.
Helton proposed all complaints go to the county’s human resources director. “In the case of elected officials, they would be forwarded to the county commission,” he said. “I’m all for having committees but committees must serve a purpose.”
Wendy Pitts Reeves took issue with the measure, saying there wasn’t any documentation supporting the motion. “Our rules state that any item we are to vote on must have information in the packet,” she said. “I’m going to move this motion be tabled because we don’t have information in front of us.”
Voting to table were Ballard, Burchfield, French, McCulley, Hasty, Keeble, Graham, McCulley, Murrell, Proffitt, Reeves, Walker and Kirby.
Lewis abstained. The motion was tabled on a vote of 13-6.
In other business, the commission unanimously passed a resolution outlining the relationship between the county commission and the Blount County Children’s Home.
Ending a long running disagreement between the mayor and the Children’s Home board, the motion specified that county commission would ratify the homes 2005 warranty deed, thereby granting the property to the board with the caveat the property would revert back to the county should the home stop doing business as a children’s welfare agency.