Site work begins on animal shelter project

By Joel Davis
of The Daily Times Staff

Completion of the core facilities of the new County Animal Shelter could happen within 200 days.

That's the completion date included in the contract with Carico Construction Inc., of Louisville, that Blount County Mayor Jerry Cunningham is expected to sign.

Meanwhile, Blount Excavation has already begun grade work at the 12-acre site, located behind the Boys and Girls Club, 241 Currie Ave., where the facility will be built.

"They started construction on Tuesday," said Rick Yeager, chairman of the Smoky Mountain Animal Care Foundation. "They are moving dirt. They've been doing grade work for about three days."

The estimated cost to build the animal shelter 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.

"I am so glad to see this happen," said Steve Samples, chairman of the Commission Animal Control Committee. "It's something Blount County has needed to do for a long time. I'm just really proud of this commission to recognize the responsibility we have to the citizens to deal with this animal situation. The commission stepped up to the plate and said, 'We're going to deal with it.' This is the result."

Purchasing Agent Judy Hackney said the general contract is ready for Cunningham's signature.

"The mayor has it on his desk," she said. "Construction has started. There is a 200-day completion in the contract. Of course, we're interested in getting the kennel part up and operational first. That's what they'll be working on mainly."

On April 19, 2007, the Blount County Commission authorized $350,000 in seed money for an animal shelter. The commission approved the floating of a short-term loan from the county debt service fund balance to pay for the project.

The Loudon County Commission has extended an agreement to continue accepting Blount County's animals for $4,000 a month until the end of 2008.

Animal control has been a subject of controversy since the previous County Commission declined to continue funding a contract with the city of Maryville for animal control services. That contract expired Dec. 31, 2006.