Sunday, April 26, 2009

April 21, 2009 Council Meeting

This council meeting was highlighted by the new Animal Ordinance, which I will review later in the post. The meeting started with the reports from the department heads. The Long Range Planning committee accepted Gene Mathews as a member as nominated by Mayor Pulford.

The Sheriff reported that it is time to get busy on blight enforcement again. Also, the Sheriff Department wants to rent the BEDA room for $150/month. The council voted to except that proposal.

The first order of business was Mr Troutwine from C&B Warehouse. Mr Troutwine has purchased the property at the corner of HWY 169 and Forest from the City. The term of the purchase was that Mr Troutwine would have until the end of 2009 to build a new Short Stop on the site, or the City would get the property back. Also, the cost of the site to Mr Troutwine ($14000) would be kept by the City even if the new Short Stop was not built. Mr Troutwine informed the Council that he did not think that he would be able to meet the timeline for the new Short Stop due to the current economic issues. Mr Troutwine will keep his option until the end of 2009, but he said that if the City were to find another buyer for the property, he would give up his option. So.... no new Short Stop for now.

Next up was a new Animal Control Ordinance. Buhl has a current ordinance that I think is not well written or specific enough to enforce. We need a better ordinance. However, the current ordinance is 2 1/4 pages, and the new ordinance is 11 1/2 pages. I think that the new ordinance is too long, too intrusive and I don't think it can be enforced. Some of the things in the new ordinance that I don't like are

  • The penalty for a violation is $300 + prosecution costs + a separate offense for each day. This is the same as the current ordinance, but it could be a huge cost to a Buhl taxpayer if they violate the ordinance for a couple of days.

  • If an animal is running at large, impounded and the owner is not found, the animal will be sold or disposed of (destroyed) after 5 days. This is almost the same language as the current ordinance but should be changed to give more time to find the owner and to allow for adoption of the pet.

  • Any police or Animal Control Officer may enter upon private property and seize any animal provided certain things of the things is that the seizure will not involve the forced entry into a private residence. I guess my problem with that is, the animal can be seized if the front door is unlocked, or a youth answers the door... I can think of a couple of other problems with that. Seizing dangerous animals needs to happen, but seizing barking dogs or animals at large (off the leash) is going too far.

  • The owner of a dangerous animal must have a hearing before the City Council. It would be better if the hearing were before a judge. After all, the person is guilty of a misdemeanor as an act of the City Council. They should not have to have a hearing before the same body.
  • Any animal is subject to seizing if it is considered a nuisance. A nuisance can be habitual barking, a dog urinating on the lawn, a dog or cat in any way harming property. I'm not sure we should go that far.

There are other problems I have with the ordinance, and I will propose a separate ordinance or a re-written ordinance at the next council meeting.

The vote on the new animal control ordinance was 3-2 for passage, with Councilor Swanson and myself voting against. However, later in the meeting the Council agreed to rescind that vote and wait until the next meeting to discuss the ordinance in greater detail.

Next up was the posting of the ordinance in the newspaper. By law, all new ordinances must be posted in full, or they can be posted in summary if 4 out of 5 council members agree to the summary. Both Councilor Swanson and myself voted against a summary appearing in the newspaper, forcing all 12 pages of the animal ordinance to be printed in the newspaper. Since none of the council members wanted to spend that much money on posting the ordinance, we all agreed to wait until the next council meeting for both the passage and posting of the new ordinance. It was generous of Councilors White and Gramm to rescind the ordinance vote and agree to delay the vote until the next meeting. 6:00pm on May 5, the Council will discuss the new Animal Control Ordinance in an open meeting. Hopefully a representative of the St Louis County Sheriff Dept will be able to attend. Get your copies of the ordinance at City Hall.

Next up was the confirmation of an RLK work order for Frantz, East Monroe, Presidents Ave and South Memorial. The total cost of engineering for these four projects would be $43,100 if all four are approved. The public hearing on these projects is scheduled for April 28 at 5:00pm at the senior center.

The next agenda item was a donation request for the St Louis County Fair. The council agreed with a 4-1 vote to donate $100.00 to the fair for 2009.

An announcement of Pay Equity training was next. It was decided that any council member that wanted to attend the training May 15 in Duluth could go. The cost is $29/attendee.

That's it. I'm looking for some feedback.