Blount County to approach Maryville on animal control

By Joel Davis
of The Daily Times Staff

Blount County may turn to Maryville once again for animal control services.

County Commission Thursday authorized County Mayor Jerry Cunningham to discuss renewing its former contract with the city to provide animal control services for the county.

The mayor will also investigate the possibility that the city might manage the new county animal shelter once it is built.

Animal control has been a subject of controversy since the previous County Commission declined to continue funding a now-expired contract with Maryville for animal control services.

"It is a thorny issue," Cunningham said. "Hindsight is always 20/20. I wish we had kept the contract with Maryville. That looks like a bargain based on what I've seen, based on the past year. It's going to cost $500,000 to $600,000 to subsidize the operations of (the animal shelter)."

The new animal shelter is being built on the 12-acre site, located behind the Boys and Girls Club, 241 Currie Ave. The estimated cost to build the facility as designed is $1.6 million.

The County Commission appropriated $430,000, which includes $80,000 in funds raised by the Smoky Mountain Animal Care Foundation and $350,000 in seed money that the commission authorized in 2007, that will allow the core of the facility to be built.

Commissioner Wendy Pitts Reeves urged caution. "I wouldn't want to do anything that even remotely hints at a shift in direction because there is way too much water under this bridge," she said.

The commission also approved an additional $11,000 to move Animal Control employee Teresa Cutshaw to full-time status.

Cutshaw will investigate and file reports on animal nuisance issues, which will be used to summon alleged violators of the animal control ordinance into court.

Commissioner Ron French made the motion to hire Cutshaw full-time after public comments from a county resident alleging a neighbor was running a puppy mill in his subdivision. All commissioners present voted yes.

"This problem is not going to go away by ignoring it," French said. "... We've got to do something to give these people some relief."