Sullivan County votes to dissolve SBK partnership with cities, will operate own animal shelter

J. H. Osborne • Updated Nov 21, 2017 at 8:21 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County will go back to operating its own animal control and animal shelter operations as of Jan. 1. The Sullivan County Commission voted Monday to terminate a partnership agreement it has had with Kingsport and Bluff City since 2011.

That joint effort, a nonprofit originally dubbed SBK, began to fall apart over the last several months amid SBK’s rebranding as “PETworks” and plans to construct a new facility to replace the two currently used — one in Kingsport and the other in Blountville.

PETworks leadership planned to build the new facility on property on Highway 11-W on the east end of Kingsport. The county commission earlier this year provided PETworks with $75,000 to help purchase that property.

But commissioners from the county’s “upper end” (around Bristol) and its eastern half (Blountville to Piney Flats) began to question how far that would be from their constituencies. During public comment at several county commission meetings, people who said they’d volunteered at the animal shelter in Blountville said they and others from the upper and eastern parts of the county would not make the drive to Kingsport.

And, ultimately, the city of Bristol, Tennessee, which had indicated it was willing finally to join the partnership, decided to withdraw plans to help fund PETworks and the new facility.

Termination of the partnership leaves Kingsport in sole control of the SBK Animal Control Center after Jan. 1. Members of the SBK/PETworks board 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.

In other business, the commission voted to spend $100,000 to hire a consultant to begin development of a three-phase “correctional master plan,” a first step toward expanding capacity at the long-overcrowded county jail.



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