JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — The Johnson City Washington County Animal Shelter needs organizational changes so quickly that a planned three-month “listening” period needed to be shortened, a consultant told the Animal Control Board (ACB) during a workshop Thursday.

Dave McAuley, founder of Summit Leadership, was kicking off a report and “SWOT” (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis with the ACB when he shared his reasoning for an accelerated timeline. The City-County ACB enlisted Summit to analyze the organization over a full year and provide recommendations for improvement.

“We don’t think we have the luxury of three months,” McAuley told board members. “We think something has to happen sooner.”

That something is likely to include a six-month stint by Brooks Blair to work with the existing staff, including Director Tammy Davis, to help implement “the right policies, procedures and systems in place to set the staff and the volunteers up for success,” McAuley told News Channel 11 during a break in the workshop.

Summit Leadership Founder Dave McAuley speaks to animal control board members at Thursday’s work session. (Photo: WJHL)

“As we got into it, we started to recognize that action to support the current staff and volunteers needed to be put in place immediately because there was a lot of frustration, there was a lot of chaos, if you will, of people not knowing what to do,” McAuley said.

Blair, who was at the workshop, recently left a 15-year run at Project Access, where she was executive director of the 35-employee non-profit for the past seven years.

Summit has said the Animal Shelter will become much stronger and more effective if it completes a well-done process to determine organizational and other changes that can yield improvements.

McAuley said during the break — after board members with some divergent views contributed heartily to listing both strengths and weaknesses at the shelter — that those different viewpoints extend to staff and volunteers. He said recent publicity surrounding Summit’s involvement and some staff and volunteer departures all play into the need to get someone in full-time as soon as possible.

“We’ve got people coming at this with different solutions in the midst of the vacuum, if you will, of structure and information, and they are putting those things on social media. They’re going to the media with these things, and those are not necessarily productive,” McAuley said.

Those differences bubbled to the surface momentarily before the SWOT analysis.

Board member Bob Wilson and vice president Jenny Brock began to discuss what they described as pressure put on the board to approve the $60,000 cost of the six-month in-house consultant role at the board’s Aug. 8 meeting. Ken Huffine, the board’s president, said the work session was not a meeting in which action could be taken and that rehashing the previous meeting wasn’t appropriate.

McAuley told News Channel 11 an objective person with organizational expertise and no allegiances was the best way to make the process successful.

“Without the outside third party facilitating it, wverybody kind of holds their ground and you don’t make progress,” he said. “It’s not that anyone’s particularly wrong, it’s that there may be an answer that’s both-and, or two or three of the things put together.

“So that’s what we want to do is come up with good process, good facilitation, to help all these ideas that are coming to the table to come together in a way that everyone can align around whatever we decide to do moving forward.”

The board listed a lack of organizational structure, a challenging funding model and low pay rates and a lack of understanding of standard operating procedures and accountability among the shelter’s weaknesses.

On the other hand, they listed the facility, the passion and compassion of volunteers and staff, and a low euthanization rate among the strengths and repeatedly agreed that everyone involved, regardless of their perspective, has the animals’ best interest at heart.

Brock said she was on board by the time the group took a break.

“I think having someone come in who has a really good understanding of organizational dynamics can be helpful,” Brock said.

She said the shelter needs six to 10 more staff as of Thursday. She said she hopes that along with her own observations, Blair can use an Aug. 2 report on the shelter completed by Dr. Becky DeBolt, a veterinarian with the University of Tennessee’s Shelter Medicine Service.

“I think that’s going to be very, very helpful and that way every person in the shelter … volunteers, employees, or even board members can go to those standard operating procedures to see ‘this is the way it’s done,'” Brock said.

She said some board members, herself included, tend to be very conservative about budgets because “shelters always are running on a wing and a prayer for funding,” but said there are some reserve funds available.

“I’m certainly willing to put my good faith and hope that it can in the end have a return on that investment.”

Huffine, the board president, said he believed Thursday’s discussion helped cement in members’ minds what is needed going forward.

“I think that sense of urgency was escalated in their eyes, and I completely agree with it,” Huffine said. “You know, our goal is to provide the highest level of care of those animals.”

The shelter is funded partly by Washington County and Johnson City’s governments and partly by donations that flow through the shelter’s non-profit foundation.