Venable sets sights on possible new home for Sullivan County Animal Shelter

J. H. Osborne • Jun 11, 2018 at 5:30 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable has taken the first steps toward possibly finding a new, larger home for the Sullivan County Animal Shelter. And if it all works out, Venable said the county will at some point be happy to invite Kingsport to come onboard.

Venable announced last week he’s been working with an architect who will soon evaluate the county’s current shelter — as well as the former “County Home.” The architect will be considering how the current shelter potentially could be renovated and expanded, and then see whether the old “County Home” is a better option.

Venable explained this to the Sullivan County Commission’s Building Committee on Thursday, and the group gave him the thumbs-up to continue exploring the option.

The old “County Home,” surrounded by a sprawling lawn on County Home Road, currently serves as storage space for the Sullivan County EMS and the Sullivan County Archives. Venable said there are other options for the stored items, and there’s been a desire for several years to move the archival materials closer to downtown Blountville to ease retrieval when items are requested by the public.

Visiting the “County Home” with the Times News on Friday, Venable conceded there will certainly be challenges to retrofitting the building for use as an animal shelter. But on the positive side, it’s owned free and clear by the county; is situated on a large, beautiful and fairly isolated parcel; and offers a great deal of space — including an existing, sound building that could be used for food storage. A problem at the current shelter, prior to the county taking sole control of its operation in January, was a rodent infestation that was blamed, at least in part, on storage of food in the shelter itself.

Another plus: Scores of families pass the facility regularly on their way to a ball field farther up the road.

Venable also updated the group on where the county is with its effort to gain 501c3 recognition for the county shelter. That’s a designation that gives an organization official non-profit status and the ability to accept donations that are tax deductible. Venable said he has retained a local law firm to draft the charter and the process is underway.

On another front, the county is seeking a grant to build a dog park in Blountville. The effort is not directly linked to the animal shelter, but the dog park would be located on a large parcel of county-owned land near the current shelter. It would be open for use by all county residents for no charge.

The Boyd Foundation (guided by Tennessee gubernatorial candidate Randy Boyd) is donating $1 million to build and enhance dog parks in communities across the Volunteer State. The program — dubbed the Dog Park Dash — will award $900,000 evenly across the state’s three divisions. In the first year of the three-year initiative, the program will fund 36 dog parks. And Sullivan County hopes to get one of the grants awarded this year. The deadline for submitting grant applications is June 20 and recipients will be announced next month.

The range of the grants is from $25,000 to $100,000 and Sullivan County is seeking the top amount.

The county’s animal shelter page on the county’s website includes a plea (which has been shared on independently operated social media pages as well) asking for very simple support from the public.

The grant requires a show of community support, so if you want to help Sullivan County get money to build a community dog park send an email to dogpark@sullivancountytn.gov stating your support and why this would be of value to you and Sullivan County. The responses will be cited in the county’s final submission for the grant.