The Tahlequah City Council, during an April 5 meeting, asked officials to look over and review city ordinances pertaining to animal control.
Deanna Hays addressed the board about an ongoing issue she’s had with her neighbor’s two pit bulldogs. Hays told the board the city has failed when it comes to doing everything possible to ameliorate the issue.
“To say that they’ve done everything that they can is not the case here, and clearly they haven’t,” said Hays. “It’s all been documented and it shouldn’t have gone this long."
Hays claims the dogs have been aggressive toward her in her own yard since September, and that she’s reported the issue to animal control, the police department, and city officials.
Compliance Coordinator Ray Hammons said the dogs weren’t aggressive with him or Animal Control Officer Vicky Green when they checked them out. One of the dogs was rehomed, and the puppies of the second dog were, as well.
“I think the process is working and I apologize for any inconvenience Ms. Hays may have felt, but we are working with that family,” said Hammons. “We have written a citation, and if the dogs get out again and we get documentation that they are out, Ms. Green has advised me that she will go impound the dog.”
Hays insisted the city ordinances are too vague and need to be more clear, and not up to the discretion of animal control.
“I’m not asking for the animals to be put down. I don’t want that to happen, and if that was my intent, I would have shot them six months ago,” said Hays. “I want [the dog owners] to comply with the city ordinances, and for me to be able to enjoy my yard and to be able to step outside my back door without fear."
Hammons agreed to review the ordinance to determine if changes are needed.
Court Clerk Jeannie Secratt updated the board on the program that allows anyone with outstanding warrants to be given a “fresh start."
“We’ve had quite a few participating and they are really — I don’t mean to say excited about paying tickets, but they are so glad that we have implemented this program,” said Secratt. “To date, we’ve had 84 defendants who have participated for a total of $29,476, and they are expressing how thankful they are.”
If defendants with failure-to-pay warrants remit half of the amount owed between Feb. 1 and April 30, the other half will be waived.
City Administrator Alan Chapman put it into perspective in terms of how much the program has made a dent in costs.
“We’ve been averaging $19,000 per month in collections for the first eight months, and in the month of March, we collected $56,000. So it’s a significant increase in collections based on upon their efforts,” said Chapman.
Acceptance of a $150,000 donation, and to amend the budget for the construction of the dog park, was granted.
Ward 1 Councilor Bree Long said a private donor offered a check to help with the park.
“We received $150,000 last week that we will use toward our dog park construction. That money is going to go to costs of fencing, parking, lighting, some playground equipment,” said Long. “We are going to put those construction items out for bid to help expedite the construction of the process, because currently a lot of our city staffers are busy doing a lot of the other projects you see happening as you drive through town these days.”
Long said they will roll out a public relations-type campaign with regard to naming the park.
The board gave its nod to name a portion of the walking trail The Rutherford Section.
The mayor discussed the appointment of a municipal court judge and said there were changes pertaining to the appointee’s salary.
“When a court judge is appointed, it is for a two-year term, and a judge may only be recalled for proper cause,” said Catron. “City ordinances require the mayor pose an appointment in writing at a regularly-scheduled meeting, which is the first Monday of each month. And the council [should] decide upon the proposed appointment at the next regularly-scheduled meeting.”
Due to the lower number of cases heard by the city court over the course of the past few years, along with the McGirt ruling, Catron would like to modify the salary and benefits package for the municipal judge, to one that is based upon caseload rather than upon a flat amount per month.
"There are a number of attorneys who have expressed an interest in the judge position. My plan is to speak with the attorneys over the remainder of this month and have a written, proposed appointment to you this time next month,” said Catron.
The next Tahlequah City Council meeting is Monday, April 19 at 5:30 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall.