Sullivan County forms animal shelter board of directors

J. H. Osborne • Dec 28, 2018 at 10:55 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — The Sullivan County Animal Shelter moved a few steps closer Friday to nonprofit status and operation by a board of directors, which met for the first time.

County Mayor Richard Venable appointed nine people to the Sullivan County Animal Shelter, Inc. board of directors. They are: Linda Brittenham; County Commissioner Joyce Crosswhite; Gena Frye; Bryan Boyd; County Commissioner Angie Stanley; David Light; Dr. Karen Stone; Kay Gott; and Cindy Holmes-Drury.

Venable hired the law firm Hunter, Smith & Davis earlier this year to guide the county through the incorporation process for the shelter. A member of the firm was on hand Friday to walk the new board members through their organizational meeting, including taking several required steps to further the process of gaining 501C3 nonprofit status for the shelter from the Internal Revenue Service.

The charter incorporating the shelter was filed with the state in July. On Friday, the board approved bylaws, chose BB&T as the entity’s bank and agreed to meet and select officers at 1 p.m. January 9. The board also decided 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 also has the power to form sub-committees, which can include people who are not board members.

The goal of the process is to transition the operation of the shelter from county officials and employees to the board of directors. The board will hire an executive director to manage the shelter and oversee the employees and volunteers who work there. Venable said ideally the transition will be complete by July 1, the beginning of the county’s next budget year. The county plans to continue funding the shelter, but the board will be tasked with raising funds from other sources as well. 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.

Prior to the SBK partnership, the county had operated the animal shelter in Blountville. It resumed doing so on January 1. It has not been an easy year for the shelter, its employees, county workers from other departments who have taken on additional duties for no extra pay, and volunteers. It has been a hard year for the animals at the shelter, especially the cats, as multiple outbreaks of disease caused temporary shutdowns and mass euthanasia.