City formalizes partnership with county for animal control

A day after the city of Morristown approved splitting expenses with the county for animal control, the Hamblen County Commission approved budgeting the money to the newly formed department.

The commission voted 11-3 to budget more than 213,000 for animal control. The county will pay half, while the city will handle the rest of the expense.

Commissioners Jeff Akard, Eileen Arnwine and Wayne NeSmith voted against the proposal.

The new animal control, which is under the control of Hamblen County Mayor Bill Brittain, will start at the first of November. The county is taking over the service after the Morristown-Hamblen Humane Society decided it did not want to conduct animal control anymore.

Brittain modeled the new service after Greene County. There will be a supervisor and an animal control officer.

Also, the animal control officers will be auxiliary deputies, so they will have law enforcement powers.

There is a one-time expenditure of around $55,000 to help pay for vehicles and equipment for the officers.

Brittain said over November the officers will be training with the humane society officers. By December, the county will take control of the service completely.

The commission also voted 12-2 to agree to a lease with the Hamblen County Rescue Squad on the building the rescue squad occupies on North Jackson Street.

Rescue squad members initially thought there was already an existing lease on the property when they began negotiating a possible move during the summer with the county due to the new jail being built.

County officials found there was no lease, so Brittain said the county drafted a lease for the rescue squad.

The lease would be for 99 years, ending in 2119. Brittain said if either party wanted to end the lease, they would have to give a 30-month notice.

Commissioners Jeff Akard and Taylor Ward voted against the lease.

The commission also approved 12-2 demolishing three law offices and other structures on newly acquired property adjacent to the justice center that will be used for the new jail. Akard and Ward also voted no.

Finally, the commission voted 14-0 to forego a discretionary payroll tax that President Donald Trump had allowed under an executive order a month ago.

County Finance Director Anne Bryan-Hurst advised against it, saying while employees would get more money on their paycheck at the end of the year they would have to pay the money back to the federal government.