Animal Shelter once again hot issue at Carter County Commission

John Thompson • Updated Feb 21, 2017 at 9:38 PM

ELIZABETHTON — Once again the Carter County Animal Shelter has been a hot topic of conversation at a local government meeting.

The latest was Tuesday night’s meeting of the Carter County Commission, in which several former shelter volunteers used the time set for citizens to speak to discuss the recent rule that volunteers were not being used by the shelter.

Several of the volunteers who addressed the commissioners last month also spoke out at February’s Elizabethton City Council meeting and last weekend’s Stoney Creek town hall meeting. They were back at the County Commission on Tuesday to speak about their concerns with the shelter operations.

In addition to the volunteers, Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey stepped down from his position as chairman of the commission and spoke from the lecturn to answer some of the criticisms.

Robin McKamey, who has been a volunteer at the shelter for 13 years, had prepared a slide presentation to accompany her five-minute talk, but she said that was not allowed. Still, McKamey distributed the slide program on sheets of paper to each commissioner to follow along as she spoke. One of her strongest criticisms was that some adoptions of animals were being permitted without spaying and neutering.

McKamey’s slides presented estimates of how much the cost of using the Lincoln Memorial University spay and neuter program instead of the University of Tennessee service would cost. She said LMU will cost $27,727 a year more than the University of Tennessee service. “Where is that coming from?” McKamey asked.

McKamey said she wondered who was holding the mayor accountable.

She also questioned the intense interest in the shelter during the past year after it had been largely neglected for many years. McKamey wondered if a recent bequest of $1.2 million from the will of an animal lover had attracted the interest.

Another former volunteer, Brittany Madden, said there has been criticism on social media that the former volunteers want to un the shelter. She said that is false. She said all the volunteers want is to care for the animals in the shelter.

Another former volunteer, Samantha Morgan, said the speakers were “not up here for themselves, they are up here for the animals.”

When Humphrey spoke during the time for public comment, he said he had not become aware there was a problem at the shelter until June. Humphrey said he and his staff “visited every shelter in the region.”

Humphrey then called for unity. “We have a serious animal control problem,” he said, citing a statistic from the Carter County 911 that there were 1,200 calls about animal problems that came through the communications center.

Humphrey said that he just started building a relationship with a national rescue organization which will provide opportunities for volunteers.

“Great things are happening at the shelter,” Humphrey said.

Another topic of conversation during the time for citizens to speak was the plan to provide county funds to Carter County Tomorrow in order to help a private property owner. The property in question is the Matheson Property on U.S. Highway 19E, the site of a former aluminum extrusion plant. Some economic developers have proposed using public funds to help pay for a environmental study so the property can be marketed to prospective industry.

Citizen Roy Livingston strongly condemned the idea and former Bob Hughes, former chairman of the Carter County Planning Commission, said it would set a bad precedent.

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