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Vote thrice defeated on shelter funding

Despite negotiations, Washington County commissioners voted three times against funding a new animal shelter during their March meeting. The only successful vote sent the project back to the county’s Budget Committee.
“As a member of the Budget Committee, will all of you who claim you want to support the animal shelter but have voted ‘no’ all night send me an email with what you’d like to have in the resolution?” Commissioner Joe Grandy asked.
Grandy, chair of the General Health and Welfare Committee, offered a replacement resolution for the first vote, removing references to the land purchase. A decision was made the week before by the Washington County-Johnson City Animal Control Board to buy the property using funds other than the county’s potential contribution.
There was no change in the county’s proposed contribution of $250,000 in cash and up to $100,000 in paving services. The cash funds would be placed in a reserve account until the Animal Control Board has the funds to begin construction. Commissioner Lee Chase seconded the motion to approve the terms of the replacement resolution.
The motion failed 9 to 14, with dissenting votes cast by Commissioners Doyle Cloyd, Sam Humphreys, Joe Sheffield, Alpha Bridger, Joe Corso, Ethan Flynn, Richard Matherly, Mark Ferguson, Gerald Sparks, Mike Ford, Mark Larkey, Roger Nave, Ben Bowman and David Shanks. Commissioner Pete Speropulos abstained, and Commissioner Evert Jarrett was absent.
“The county needs more for its investment,” Ford said. “In the event something doesn’t work, what would the county have?”
Animal Control Board Member Ralph Van Brocklin, also a commissioner in Johnson City, said the same concern has been expressed by city commissioners.
“If you put in money and then decide you want a separate program, an agreement could be written that would stipulate the $350,000 would be paid back,” he said.
Flynn said the county has a minority representation on the Animal Control Board, and he thinks the best way to protect the taxpayers is to have equity in the land.
“You have no less say than the city,” Van Brocklin said. “The deciding vote is the Humane Society representative who will not always side with the same (government entity).”
Commissioner David Tomita said the county would protect its investment through ongoing appropriations.
Flynn made a motion to modify the resolution, allowing the county to commit $250,000 toward the purchase of land for the construction of a new facility. The motion was seconded by Corso.
The land and all improvements would be equally and jointly owned by the city and county, and rented for $1 per year to the Animal Control Board.
The second vote to fund the animal shelter was defeated 9 to 14, with dissenting votes cast by Greg Matherly, Cloyd, Humphreys, Sheffield, Bridger, Phillips, Richard Matherly, Ferguson, Sparks, Ford, Larkey, Nave, Bowman, and Shanks. Speropulos again abstained.
“The best solution is to end up with a piece of land if the funds are not raised,” Flynn insisted. “If we can buy a piece of property with the city, we can protect our investment because we have our equity.”
Flynn modified his resolution, adding that the county provide up to $100,000 in paving services. Grandy seconded the motion.
Funding the animal shelter failed in the third vote 10 to 13, defeated by Cloyd, Humphreys, Sheffield, Bridger, Phillips, Richard Matherly, Ferguson, Sparks, Ford, Larkey, Nave, Bowman and Pat Wolfe. Speropulos abstained.
Flynn then moved to send the resolution back to the Budget Committee. Chase seconded the motion, but one commissioner objected to deferring the decision.
“I think we need to be thoughtful right here,” Commissioner Ken Lyon said. “Before you vote, ask yourselves if Washington County is ready to get into the animal control business by itself. I think we’ve come a long way and we should support (funding).”
Tomita encouraged fellow commissioners to speak up about their wants rather than continuing to vote against motions with no discussion.
The motion to return the issue to the Budget Committee passed 17 to 7, with Speropulos, Tomita, Flynn, Lyon, Grandy, George Skip Oldham and Mitch Meredith voting against postponing the decision.
Commissioners may or may not take up the topic during their April meeting, depending on whether a recommendation is received from the Budget Committee.