City commission discusses pets, priorites
Pets and priorities were topics of conversation by the members of the Concodia city commission during two separate study sessions that were part of the regular meeting Wednesday at City Hall.
Proposed amendments to the city’s animal control ordinance, including whether or not to eliminate breed specific language, was discussed by the city commission during one study session.
During a second study session, the commission formulated a list of what it regarded as priorities in the county in response to a request from CloudCorp board of directors.
The CloudCorp board asked each of the taxing entities in the county to provide a list of priorities over the next few years.
In action taken by the commission during the the meeting, a demolition program request and an irrevocable license for the installation, maintenance and replacement of private storm structures for Concordia Technologies, LLC were approved.
City manager Amy Lange provided the commissioners with information on the proposed changes to the animal control ordinance which stated that the goal is to provide clear guidance to our city’s residents related to expectations of pet ownership within the city limits and clear guidance to the animal control officer to perform her duties.
It stated in the memo that there is a section in the animal control ordinance related to dog ownership that is difficult to interpret, and even more difficult to enforce.
It is the goal of the city to register all dogs within the city limits which requires rabies shots. That results in an identification tag for a dog’s collar that is to be worn at all times.
In 2004, the city commission passed an ordinance establishing the definition of dangerous and potentially dangerous dogs. It established a ban on pit bulls and fighting mastiff type dogs, except those located within the city limits before December 15, 2004.
The ordinance allowed pit bulls or fighting mastiff type dogs within the city limits with restrictions that includes passing a canine good citizen test.
In 2014, the city commission discussed a repeal of the breed-specific regulation which would allow the dangerous and potentially dangerous provisions to apply to any type of animal. Following a survey taken by the city, the ordinance was left unchanged.
Of the 28 cities responding to a survey this year, Concordia is the only city that permits certain dog breeds with extra stipulations prior to registration. Eleven of the cities have a dangerous dog ordinance that does not prohibit or require special stipulations of specific breeds, 17 have a breed specific ordinance and of those, 13 ban pit bulls.
The city of Concordia staff analyzed dog bite cases and tickets written by animal control officers from 2012 through August 31, 2018. There were 57 dog bite cases from a variety of breeds with 10 cases occurring by a prohibited breed or prohibited breed mix during that time. Of those, 14 of those dogs were provoked before biting.
Changes to the animal control ordinance presented to the commission included allowing all domestic dogs except those hybridized by wild canines, deleting language from the section on dangerous animals describing specific breeds prohibited with exceptions, combining the section on vicious animals with the section on dangerous animals and increasing fees from $8 to $20 for unspayed females and un-neutered males; increasing the fee from $10 to $15 for each additional dog over the threshold of four dogs per household; increasing the fee from $5 to $10 for spayed and neutered dogs.
The fee waiver from March 1-March 31, and during the first 30 days the dog first becomes subject to licensing, would remain in place.
During public comments, Kristy Jensen talked about the breed specific regulation.
Jensen said breed specific legislation is a thing of the past.
“All over the country, states and local municipalities are realizing the negative effects that breed specific legislation has had. While it is intended to decrease the population of said dogs, and ensure that only safe ones are allowed to exist within the city it is proven time and time again that is not the case,” Jensen said.
Jensen said that breed specific legislation results in increased cost for enforcement, vet care, euthanasia and disposal.
“Breed specific legislation does in no way stop people from having whatever dog they want to have. All it does is force those who loved the banned breeds to hide them,” Jensen said.
Todd Stupka, who owns three English mastiffs, told the commission that his dogs are registered federally, state and locally.
“It cost a little over $2,000 to get them through that training, all of the registrations,” Stupka said.
Stupka said it took four hours twice a week to take the dogs to class.
“We don’t even offer this course in town, so how in the world can we enforce this ordinance on our citizens,” Stupka said.
Melody Kelso, who operates a sanctuary for special needs dogs in Beloit, also spoke to the commission.
“I will tell you most of the dogs I work with are not pit bulls,” Kelso said, “I don’t think breed specific legislation helps anyone, in addition to the fact it is doubtful that anyone is trained well enough to identify those breeds in a comprehensive manner.”
During the study sessions, commissioner Chuck Lambertz said he believes strongly that breed specific language is really abhorrent.
“To make it clear and easy, I think stripping away the breed specific makes the animal control job a lot easier, court jobs a lot easier. A dangerous dog is a dangerous dog. A safe dog is safe dog. We target dangerous dogs, and more specifically their owners. I do believe it has 99 percent to do with ownership and training,” Lambertz said.
Animal control officer Jodi Baker said that doing away with the breed specific ban would result in owners not having to hide those banned animals, and will get them registered.
The commission spent more than 45 minutes discussing the proposed revisions to the animal control ordinance, and the topic will be revisited during a future meeting.
A list of four priorities was developed by the commission during a study session on the request from the CloudCorp board for input.
Following a lengthy discussion, the commission agreed on submitting four priorities including good paying jobs/skilled workforce, a modern medical facility, attention to the education facilities where needed and desirable housing.
These projects are ones that the city commission can get behind and support over the next few years.
“What that support looks like, it doesn’t necessarily mean giving cash, it doesn’t necessarily mean going out and campaigning for anything. What it means is as things come up related to those projects, the city commission shows positive and visible support in whatever way possible to help advance that project,” Lange said.
It was the consensus of the commission that good paying jobs/skilled workforce and a modern medical facility were the top priorities.
Commissioner Christy Hasch said her top priority was a modern medical facility.
There was some debate as to what would be listed as the third priority between desirable housing and upgrades to the education facilities.
“I think there's probably things in our school that need to be improved. Not $30 million worth,” commissioner Mark Matthew said.
The Unified School District 333 board of education during a study session in September discussed facilities need.
A cost estimate for the upgrades discussed was $32 million.
“Why are they just looking at that now? I mean, we just spent $1 million on a football field and that money could have been used for building classrooms and improving it. It didn't have to go to the football field, and yet, all of a sudden now people are worried about the education in the buildings and want to spend $30 million,” Sacco.
Sacco said that to help create jobs and get people to come to the area to work there needs to be better housing.
“There's accessible housing in Concordia. There's still room for improvement, but in Cloud County, as a whole, I believe there is access to desirable housing, if not from an aesthetic then from a cost-entry point. You can get a decent house that has decent bones in Concordia for relatively economical,” Lambertz.
It was decided by the commissioners to include both the upgrades to education facilities and desirable housing on the list.
During the regular meeting, the commission approved an application from Jerry Burgess to have a fire damaged home at 721 East Sixth Street put into the city’s demolition plan and authorized Mayor Sam Sacco to sign the contract to reimburse the owner $3,250 upon completion of the demolition.
Concordia Technologies submitted a proposal to attempt to address some drainage issues on its property at 1830 East Sixth Street.
The commission approved the license for installation, maintenance and replacement of a private storm sewer structure to be located within the previously vacated Powell Avenue right-of-way.
During another study session, the commission discussed the prioritization of street improvement projects.
Ron Copple, director of public works, informed the commission that the plan was to use TIF funds to pay for the portion of two alley improvement projects in downtown Concordia that included repavement and replacement of the sanitary sewer within the alleys.
Based on the outcome of a meeting with representatives of the taxing entities in the TIF district, the decision was made not to use those funds for the project, and that project will be delayed.
Copple said that in 2019 he would like to do a mill and overlay project on Archer Street from Fifth Street to 11th Street. He will present the project to the two engineering firms in Concordia and get a cost for design, construction inspection and bid letting.
Copple plans to present the estimates to the commission in a month or so.