Sullivan animal shelter board elects first officers

J. H. Osborne • Jan 10, 2019 at 11:09 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — The board of directors of Animal Shelter of Sullivan County, Inc. elected officers Wednesday during the group’s second meeting.

Linda Brittenham is the board’s first president, while Gena Frye is its first vice president. Bryan Boyd will serve as secretary/treasurer.

Election of officers was another step toward gaining nonprofit status for the new, private corporation, which is expected eventually to take over operation of the Sullivan County Animal Shelter.

The county currently operates the facility, after having dissolved a partnership with Kingsport and Bluff City at the end of 2017. County Mayor Richard Venable has said the goal is to have Animal Shelter of Sullivan County, Inc. become the operator of the shelter by July 1, the start of the county’s next budget year. Venable said the intention is for the county to continue funding the shelter in the 2019-2020 budget cycle.

The county’s current budget includes $450,000 per year to fund the facility, Accounts and Budgets Director Larry Bailey said, plus an estimated $100,000 from other revenues generated by the shelter itself.

Venable said the hope is the new board will be able to raise additional funding through donations and grants. One of the first matters to be handled by the board will be the hiring of a director/manager to oversee the shelter and its employees on a daily basis. That person will answer directly to the board. Employees will answer to the director/manager. The director and other workers will be employees of the board, not of the county, according to discussions among the board so far.

First up, though, is development and approval of an operating budget for the organization. That must be included in the group’s application for nonprofit status.

It is up to the board to develop procedures and policies for the shelter’s operation, as well as to establish a “vision” for what the shelter should strive to be. On Wednesday, the board formed several subcommittees to begin tackling those and other functions. Venable also announced a tenth member of the board: Vicki Royston. Venable said he inadvertently left her name off the list of directors when the group first met. Royston joins Brittenham; County Commissioner Joyce Crosswhite; Frye; Boyd; County Commissioner Angie Stanley; David Light; Dr. Karen Stone; Kay Gott; and Cindy Holmes-Drury.

The board’s meetings will not be required to be open to or advertised to the public, the lawyer handling the incorporation said during the meeting Wednesday.

The charter incorporating the shelter was filed with the state in July. At its first meeting, the board approved bylaws, chose BB&T as the entity’s bank and agreed its annual meeting (at which new members will be elected) will be in June (with staggered terms of office of three years). The bylaws allow the board to be made up of as few as six or as many as 20 members. It will be up to current members to decide if or when to change the number of members. The board’s power to form subcommittees can include the appointment of people who are not on the board.

The animal shelter property will be leased to the board, Venable said, along with all the equipment.

The lawyer said completion of 501C3 status can take up to six months, but a neighboring county got its approval in six weeks.

The shelter has been operated by Sullivan County, with the help of volunteers, since January 1, 2017. Prior to that, it had for several years been a part of what is now PETWorks — which originated as SBK, a partnership of Sullivan County, Bluff City and Kingsport. The Sullivan County Commission voted last year to end that partnership, partially over disagreements related to PETWorks’ plans to build a new facility on Stone Drive in Kingsport, a move that would have closed the Blountville location. That didn’t sit well with volunteers and residents from the Bristol, Piney Flats and Blountville areas of the county. Cost also played into the decision, as PETWorks originally promised not to ask the county for any more money after the commission approved helping fund the purchase of the land on Stone Drive, but came back and asked for a commitment toward construction.

When one board member asked who runs the shelter now, Venable said, “The buck stops with me.” Past that, he said the operation of the shelter has “very little structure.”

“After a year, we’re still struggling,” Venable said.