Unicoi County

Residents use yard signs to speak out about animal shelter funding cuts

Unicoi County Animal Shelter funding cuts

UNICOI COUNTY, Tenn. - The Unicoi County Animal Shelter may lose a third of its budget in one fell swoop. That could mean fewer services and residents are sounding off about it.

Yard signs are moving quickly here at the Unicoi County Animal Shelter. "I hope my sign says to people driving by, but also to our leaders listen to your constituents," said Erwin resident John Edwards.

In a recent 5-to-1 vote, leaders in the Town of Erwin decided to cut funding to the shelter to the tune of $23,000. We learned it was partly a move to save money in next year's budget.

The shelter runs with the help of Unicoi County, the Town of Unicoi, and the Town of Erwin. Each pays $23,000 a year.

No decision has been set in stone but County Mayor Greg Lynch says making up that lost money could fall on taxpayers and that might mean higher property taxes. "The County and the Town of Unicoi would either have to pick up the slack or ask the Humane Society to cut back on their services," added Lynch.

News 5 learned all three mayors in Unicoi County are working to come up with solutions. But the Unicoi County Animal Shelter says they're still trying to form an action plan. "There are a lot of unknowns at this point," said shelter Director Jessica Blevins.

One thing is clear -- shelter staff says a hit this big could hurt. "We're a small shelter in a small community, and that's a significant amount of money for us to compensate for to keep our doors open," added Blevins.

We learned the Town of Erwin has plans to open a small animal facility nearby and continue to fund their animal control officer.

The Unicoi County Animal Shelter is inviting residents to come and voice their concerns. They're holding a public form at the Erwin Armory at 6 p.m. Thursday night.

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