New shelter location doomed PETworks

Editorial Board • Dec 1, 2017 at 12:06 PM

It’s a shame Sullivan County has completely backed out of an agreement to merge animal control and shelter operations with its cities. The savings from efficiencies would have benefited taxpayers.

But it’s understandable, given an error in judgment by the combined agency to place its sole shelter in Kingsport rather than a more central location closer to Blountville. That decision doomed the joint effort known as PETworks, created in 2011 as a partnership with the county, Kingsport and Bluff City.

When PETworks announced plans to construct a new facility to replace the two currently used — one in Kingsport and the other in Blountville — it looked like the longstanding issue of spotty animal control had been solved. The county kicked in $75,000 to help purchase the property on Highway 11-W on the east end of Kingsport.

But commissioners from the eastern half of the county stepped up to question the logistics of a single countywide shelter located at the county’s western end, a long trip for folks living in Bristol or Bluff City. Commissioners questioned whether residents would make such a trip, and ultimately Bristol, which had indicated it was willing finally to join the partnership, decided to withdraw.

And now Sullivan County has followed suit.

Termination of the partnership leaves Kingsport in sole control of the new site, which will rely on donations to help build. Members of the board have indicated the group will move forward with scaled-back plans for the new facility on 11-W, and some commissioners said the county might reconsider at some point in the future and rejoin the partnership.

But as of Jan. 1, the animal shelter in Blountville will be operated by Sullivan County. There already have been two workers there being funded by the county. County Mayor Richard Venable said the county will develop a plan over the next few weeks to be ready to staff the facility fully by Jan. 1. And there’s about $180,000 in the county’s current budget that would have gone to SBK/PETworks to pay for the county’s portion of funding for the partnership between Jan. 1 and June 30. Now, that money can be directed to the county’s effort to operate its own shelter in Blountville.

Whatever happens going forward, let’s hope county residents continue to be well-served by separate organizations and our animal friends don’t suffer because of it.

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