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Mayor receives hate mail over senior center, animal shelter

During his first meeting with the newly appointed Budget Committee, Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge said he wanted to clear the air on two controversial issues that he says currently have him receiving hate mail.
“The animal shelter and the senior center will be coming under this committee, and we’ve got a lot of work to do on both,” Eldridge told Commissioners Mitch Meredith, Peter Speropulos and Ethan Flynn when they met Feb. 29.
Members were given a copy of a flyer that noted it has been sent to 300 Jonesborough residents.
The flyer’s message begins, “Come one…Come all to see the big show!” It continues, telling readers the General Health and Welfare Committee plans to give away town residents’ tax dollars to the City of Johnson City for an animal shelter during its Feb. 15 joint meeting with the Animal Control Board.
Though the message does not refer to the senior center project currently underway in Jonesborough, it implies the dollars that could support a new building for seniors are instead going to a new animal shelter.
The flyer may explain the large number of citizens who attended the Feb. 15 joint meeting and were angry to learn the senior center was not on the agenda.
The flyer goes on to tell readers the town has made more than one request to speak to the committee to no avail, and lists the committee members who are “slamming the door in the face of Jonesborough.”
“This is not productive. I feel like people are trying to threaten or intimidate the county into making a commitment,” Eldridge said. “The thing we need to communicate from this committee is that we will evaluate every request based on merit.”
Eldridge said the county has received a lot of criticism about the new animal shelter, including accusations of commissioners dragging their feet on the joint project with Johnson City.
However, a vote for funding scheduled on the county commission’s June 27, 2011, agenda was withdrawn at the request of Johnson City officials because they wanted to look at more sites before making a decision.
“They did that, and just recently came back with the property on North Roan Street,” Eldridge said. “I thought we acted timely in scheduling a joint meeting between the General Health and Welfare Committee and the Animal Control Board.”
Eldridge and other county leaders said the Town of Jonesborough has not been in contact to discuss funding for the senior center.
“I’ve heard of no requests to appear before the General Health and Welfare Committee,” said Meredith, who serves on that committee.
Following commission procedure, the General Health and Welfare Committee will now consider a recommendation to the Budget Committee for funding one, both or neither of the projects.
If received and approved, a recommendation for funding may be taken to the full commission at its March meeting.
“I want to emphasize that our responsibility is to issue due diligence and remember every dollar spent is a taxpayer dollar,” Eldridge said.