"We think we can get it up and running on a bare-bones basis," he told members of the Blount County Chamber of Commerce during a briefing on the state of the county Tuesday.
The shell of the shelter is complete, but problems with bids for the work needed to make it operational have pushed back the projected opening date, which had been today.
"Animal control has been the most thorny issue
I've had to handle," Cunningham said. "... In retrospect, I wish
we had contracted with Maryville, but that's water under the
Animal control has been a problem since the previous County Commission declined to continue funding a contract with Maryville for animal control services. County residents protested when the services stopped, Cunningham said.
"People were furious," he said.
The Loudon County Commission is accepting Blount's stray animals at the Loudon County Animal Shelter for $4,000 a month. The arrangement was set to expire Monday, but Loudon County officials said that approving a temporary extension of the arrangement will not be an issue.
The Blount County animal center is set to open in three phases. Phase I consists of operational kennels and limited office space. The animal shelter is being built behind the Boys and Girls Club, 241 Currie Ave, in Maryville.
The county has been involved in a public-private partnership to build the new shelter. The Smoky Mountain Animal Care Foundation has been raising funds for the effort.
"(President) Chris Protzman and SMACF have been a tremendous help getting us where we are," Cunningham said.
The estimated cost to build the facility as designed is $1.6 million. The County Commission previously appropriated $430,000, which included $80,000 raised by SMACF and $350,000 in seed money that the commission authorized in 2007 that allowed the core of the facility to be built. The organization also was able to bump up the initial direct funding by an additional $20,000 because of a timely grant from the Charles and Susan Fouche Foundation. It has also brought in approximately $325,000 to $350,000 in 'in-kind' donations for the shelter.