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Animal Shelter Staff To Become Full-Fledged City Employees Through Vote

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Animal Shelter Staff To Become Full-Fledged City Employees Through Vote

The final step in officially making animal shelter workers Cookeville city employees could come Thursday if Cookeville City Council votes to approve a new agreement.

The city and Putnam County have jointly operated the shelter since 2000 with employees stuck in the middle of city and county systems for payroll and benefits. Now, the two sides have created a formal agreement. Shelter Director Jennifer Tracy said she is grateful for a more straightforward, simple structure.

“It was a weird structure to begin with in that we weren’t fully city employees, we weren’t fully county employees,” Tracy said. “We were missing out on some benefits that both city and county employees had that we didn’t have. So this just gets things a whole lot simpler and makes a whole lot more sense.”

Tracy said that she and her staff are appreciative of the City and County for taking care of the “nuts and bolts” of the shift. Tracy said that the change will bring an adjustment period, but her employees are pleased with the long-term benefit of the changes.

County commissioners have already agreed to the plan. Cookeville City manager James Mills said this agreement has been a priority for him.

“Our biggest concern here was about the employees,” Mills said. “We felt like–I have since I started as City Manager, that we should treat those people that work there the same as any other employee and it’s been confusing for them. What hours? When do I get vacation? What’s my pay raise? This cleans it all up. They’ve been in essence city employees, they just weren’t eligible for a lot of the same benefits. I never thought that was fair.”

Mills said if executed, shelter employees will have the same holidays as other city employees and start accruing vacation and sick leave beginning January 1. Starting July 1, they’ll be eligible for merit-based pay raises. Tracy said the clarity will help in the hiring process.

“It gives us an opportunity to offer better opportunities in staffing going forward and with the staff already here,” Tracy said. “Hopefully it will be a tool to help us hang onto good staff and recruit more as needed.”

Mills said the city and the Animal Control Board will remain responsible for the day-to-day management of shelters with costs split equally between the two entities.


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