County considering takeover of animal control

The finance committee of the Hamblen County Commission voted 12-1 Monday to move forward with financing a new county animal control division as the Morristown-Hamblen Humane Society ends providing the service.

Hamblen County Mayor Bill Brittain said he is modeling animal control after Greene County and the county’s new animal control would provide two animal control officers who will be deputized.

“This is the best solution I’ve seen as mayor,” he said.

Commissioner Wayne NeSmith was the lone vote against the proposal, which will go before the full board next Thursday for a final vote.

The humane society has said it is getting out of the animal control business and Brittain said the new model will provide better service to the county. With the officers deputized, it will mean they will be able to do investigations or make arrests if needed on cases such as animal cruelty.

The officers will conduct 80 hours of law enforcement classes and be deputized, Brittain said.

With the humane society conducting animal control, its officers did not have law enforcement power.

The humane society previously received $150,000 annually each from the city and county for a total of $300,000.

Under the new model, the humane society would continue to provide shelter service, but its total allotment from the city and county would go down to $240,000.

The new service would also mean an additional $65,000 from the city and county would be needed in funding, on top of the $60,000 left over from the city and county’s previous allotment to the humane society, bringing the total funding for animal control to $125,000.

Brittain said the breakdown of the $125,000 will be $97,825 for pay, benefits and overtime and operating costs are budgeted for $25,900.

Benefits are expected to cost around $20,000, he said.

“So, it’s costing us more?” NeSmith asked.

“For a better service,” Brittain replied.

Commission Chairman Howard Shipley also asked about how the county would handle livestock services.

“I’ve still got to do some research on that,” Brittain said.

He said whatever solution is figured out would not mean any additional expenditure for the county.

Once the animal control is established, the county plans on hiring two officers, a supervisor and an officer. The director will report directly to Brittain.

Brittain said the humane society plans to end its service at the end of November, so the county hopes to have its service before then.

The jail study committee also voted 11-2 Monday night to proceed with bidding out the Hale property project across from the Hamblen County Courthouse, which will include a new parking lot for the courthouse, along with additional offices.

The estimated cost of development of the property is $375,000.

Brittain told commissioners the new parking lot will have 67 new parking spaces.

NeSmith and Commissioner Jeff Akard voted against the project.

The commission also voted to end a “10-day rule” that was put in effect by a previous commission years ago. The rule was put in effect so commissioners would have time to look over any finance proposals before bidding. Brittain told the commission he did not think the rule was necessary and actually hinders the process if the county needs to hurry up some processes.

The commission voted 12-1 to end the rule with NeSmith voting no.