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Opposition derails plans for Sullivan County no-kill animal shelter

June 19th, 2007 12:00 am by J. H. Osborne

Opposition derails plans for Sullivan County no-kill animal shelter

Regina Isenberg at the proposed site of the no-kill shelter. Times-News file photo.


BLOUNTVILLE - Opposition Monday from neighboring property owners killed plans for a no-kill animal shelter in Sullivan County.

The Sullivan County Commission denied a rezoning request that would have allowed a nonprofit agency to build a $500,000 facility on a nearly 10-acre tract off Highway 126 at Isley Road.

The Humane Society of Sullivan County announced plans earlier this year to build a no-kill animal shelter at the site.

A property owner across the street wrote a letter to county officials in support of the Humane Society's plans - but more than a dozen people who said they live nearby showed up Monday to oppose the project as county commissioners prepared to vote on the request.

Those who spoke for the opposition said they were concerned about potential environmental hazards - sanitary sewer service is not available in that section of the county - and potential disease.

One man criticized the proposed shelter because it would be operated by volunteers and not bring any jobs to the county.

Humane Society of Sullivan County President Regina Isenberg said the group's goal is simple: "We want to save lives."

She noted two businesses already exist on nearby parcels and said the Humane Society's efforts contribute to the local economy on several levels - from helping get stray animals off the streets to finding homes for those animals with new owners who'll likely visit area businesses regularly for pet supplies.

In other business Monday the commission:

•Granted final approval to a "continuing resolution" to continue current spending levels for operation of county government pending development of a county budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

•Heard, on first reading, Commissioner Wayne McConnell's proposal to give county employees a pay raise as of July 1. It could come for a vote next month.

•Deferred action on a proposal to install emergency sirens across the county.

•Heard Commissioner John McKamey withdraw a resolution he sponsored that called for the county to ask the cities of Kingsport and Bristol, Tenn., to share growth in sales tax revenues generated by TIF projects. TIF stands for tax increment financing, an economic development tool used to help pay redevelopment costs in "blighted" areas. TIF requires agreement from the county, and whichever city the "blighted" property is located in, to allow part or all of any new property tax revenues from a project to be used to finance its redevelopment. McKamey said he had accomplished his mission by initiating debate of the issue and raising awareness among county commissioners that the county has options when it comes to such agreements.

•Voted to increase court costs for all criminal and civil cases by up to $25 each. The new revenue will be used to enhance security measures at county courtrooms.

Last year, Greene County officials got approval from the state legislature, through a private act, to increase how much it costs to file a court case there. They used the money to pay for additional personnel and equipment for courthouse security.

The private act gave Greene County leeway to increase the fee by up to $25, but they only increased it $15 - to generate an estimated $181,000 per year, Judge John S. McClellan III said earlier this year. He is chairman of Sullivan County's Courthouse Security Committee.

The caseload in Sullivan County's judicial system would likely generate three or four times that amount, Sullivan County Mayor Steve Godsey said in February.

At that time, McClellan said if the state allowed Sullivan County to piggyback on Greene County's private act, the fee increase here could start out lower - maybe $5 or $10.

A study completed last year by a state agency recommended nearly $1 million worth of security upgrades at county facilities used for court proceedings.

That report, from the Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy, said it's not a matter of if, but when, a security incident will occur at any one of Sullivan County's 14 courtrooms.

Sullivan County Sheriff's Office personnel have provided similar assessments - and asked for money for security improvements - yearly, since at least 1999.

County court facilities are spread out among four buildings: justice centers in Blountville, Bristol and Kingsport; as well as Kingsport City Hall. That last location in particular is considered a "very dangerous situation," according to the state agency's assessment.

"Abandoning this facility (City Hall) for court purposes is the only true fix ... but, of course, this is expensive and inconvenient," the report stated.

On Monday, Godsey told the commission the General Assembly did approve adding Sullivan County to counties covered by last year's private act - and it required a two-thirds majority vote from the commission to start collecting the added fee.

•Approved Godsey's appointment of seven people to what the county's "Code of Ethics" describes as a five-member "Ethics Committee."

A state law approved by the Tennessee General Assembly last year requires each county in the state to have an official code of ethics in place by June 30. The County Commission approved Sullivan County's code earlier this year.

Godsey named the following appointees to the required ethics committee: Circuit Court Clerk Tommy Kerns; County Commissioner Cathy Armstrong; County Commissioner Joe Herron; County Commissioner Bill Kilgore; Gayvern Moore, payroll and personnel manager for the county; County Clerk Jeanie Gammon; and County Commissioner Linda Brittenham.

All commissioners present for the vote - including four of the appointees - voted "yes" to confirm the committee's membership, while Gammon - as county clerk - kept track of the votes.

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