Elizabethton, Carter County officials raise concerns surrounding animal shelter transition

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ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. (WJHL) — Two months after Carter County commissioners voted to transform the Elizabethton/ Carter County Animal Shelter to a non-profit agency, county and city leaders voiced their concerns.

At a meeting Tuesday night with Elizabethton City Council, Carter County commissioners and the animal shelter’s board, leaders expressed communication setbacks between the two entities in regard to moving forward with the shelter’s transition.

This transition entails that the shelter moves from a government-funded agency to a non-profit, which is funded by local government and the community.

Carter County Commissioner Dr. Robert Acuff said the shelter becoming a 501(c)(3) doesn’t pose the issue; rather, many terms have yet to be set.

“It’s not that no one wants it to become a 501(c)(3); it’s just how we do this and how everything is folded together,” Acuff said.

“I also wanted to know of the issues surrounding ownership. The 501(c)(3) — does that mean the city donates the land, and the county donates the building? I think each of us has a series of questions that we need answers to come to an agreement to make sure this happens.”

Elizabethton Mayor Curt Alexander carried this statement on to say that the city and county has a long way to go — collaboratively speaking — before changes are put into motion.

“I’m not saying a 501(c)(3) is right or wrong, but I’m saying if we’re going to do it, we’re all going to have to get together, and that’s not happening right now,” Alexander said. “It’s a dead issue to even talk about until we get some type of communication between the two bodies.”

The shelter was allotted 16 months to become a nonprofit.

The Elizabethton/ Carter County Animal Shelter Director Shannon Posada listed prospective changes Monday evening both for the shelter and its employees.

These included either a 5% or $1,000 base pay increase for shelter employees, which doesn’t include herself.

“The shelter staff’s [pay] has really not been increased,” Posada said. “They did get the bonuses, and everyone here was very, very thankful for the bonus money, but I did lose two staff members, and previous to that, I lost two other staff members.

“One was a mom who worked here on the dollar amount that we offer, and she just couldn’t do it…I think nothing more other than we need to reward [shelter staff] for the job that they do here. I know there’s not enough money for us to pay them what they’re worth, but I think showing them some movement moving forward in the pay is huge to them.”

Posada told News Channel 11 the shelter employees four full-time staff members along with four part-time staffers.

Also mentioned were vehicle dilemmas and the shelter’s attempt to add another car, as two of the vehicles in its possession are wearing out. Another raised concern was that of the shelter’s funding once it gains its nonprofit status.

“If we’re going to be changing to a 501(c)(3), do [funds] go into a reserve account to build up some money toward the 501(c)(3)?” Posada asked. “Does it need to build up this year to go into next year’s budget?

“That’s one of the concerns that I had. Normally, with a 501(c)(3), you have some money to start out on.”

We spoke with shelter, city and county leaders before tonight’s joint Zoom meeting.

Here’s what they had to say.

The shelter’s budget hearing will be on April 26, with the next collaborative meeting among the shelter board, city and county leaders on May 11.

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