Hillsboro council hears citizen input about dog ordinance

About a dozen residents came to the April 3 Hillsboro City Council meeting to discuss and sometimes challenge the new dog ordinance being considered.

One concern that surfaced frequently was the list of 12 breeds of dogs in the ordinance that may be “capable of inflicting life-threatening injuries upon human beings or domestic animals.”

During the discussion, more than one resident challenged the need to include the list of dog breeds at all; dogs should be evaluated on their individual merits, they said.

At a previous city council meeting, City Attorney Josh Boehm said the list of breeds was not a “ban list,” but is one factor a judge can use to consider the danger of the animal, or whether the owner needs to submit to additional protections when licensing the dog.

More than one resident said they own a dog included on the list, but the animal has never been a threat to people or other pets.

Boehm had reported that the trend in dog ordinances in Kansas has been to move away from listing specific breeds of dogs as being dangerous or viscous, and evaluate the behavior of each animal independently.

“There’s no such thing as bad dogs, only bad owners,” one resident said.

Police Chief Dan Kinning said police officers generally aren’t trained to handle potentially dangerous dogs. That prompted one resident to suggest that the city of invest in an animal control officer.

The city currently doesn’t have funds to create the position, but one resident stated she had discovered that the city has only 99 dogs registered, and that if all of the “hundreds of dogs” were registered the city might be able afford it.

The discussion continued for almost an hour. At the end of it, the council voted to delay action on the ordinance until its May 1 meeting in order to give the public more time to read the proposed ordinance and address the council if they choose.

Beer garden request

Three members from the Marion County Fair Board were on hand to ask for a second time if the city would allow the board to organize a beer garden during the fair’s annual demolition derby.

The board had proposed a beer garden a year ago as a fundraiser for the fair as financial sponsorships continue to dwindle.

At the time, the council turned down the request upon the recommendation of Chief Kinning, who was concerned about the safety of fairgoers if participants overindulged.

Board members said the one-night effort could be a way of testing whether a beer garden could be a positive event. They proposed issuing a wristband to every participant. Each participant could buy as many as four beers, with a notch punched in the wristband to keep track of each purchase.

Asked by council members how Kinning felt about the proposal, he responded, “I have the same opinion as last year.” He said even four beers can cause alcohol-related problems.

One board member suggest the idea of establishing a “taxi service” to transport people home, if needed.

Following the 20-minute discussion, the council agreed to delay a decision until its May 1 meeting.

In the meantime, councilors requested more information about the impact of having a beer garden at the Marion Chingawassa Days last summer, the possibility of reducing the beer limit and the option of having a “taxi” or designated driver service.

Sanitation changes

City Administrator Larry Paine and interim assistant Don Osenbaugh led a discussion about the future of the sanitation department in Hillsboro.

With retirement approaching for at least one member of the two-man crew, and with the city’s “new” truck being 12 years old, the future of the sanitation department needs to be determined promptly, Osenbaugh said.

The key decision, Osenbaugh said, was whether to continue the service “in-house” or to hire an outside firm to pick up local trash and recyclables.

Osenbaugh referred to a study that had evaluated the cost and impact of either option, with a modest financial advantage for hiring an outside provider.

Paine acknowledged the possible advantage, but he reminded the council that an in-house department provides better public service than a corporate one could.

Paine cited the example of a resident who calls the city office to say the trash for the week had not been taken to the curb on time—could the city still pick it up?

Paine said the sanitation crew has done that kind of thing frequently—making exceptions for the sake of customer service that an outside company wouldn’t do.

Councilor Dave Loewen said another advantage of having an in-house department is that they buy groceries and gasoline in town, pay local taxes and otherwise make a positive financial impact.

“We’ll never get that back if we let it go to an outside group,” he said.

Councilor Jonah Gehring said Hillsboro’s service was far better than the service he experienced while he was living in Newton.

In the end, the council voted 4-0 to stay with the in-house model.

Other business

In other business, the council:

◼ approved paying an invoice for $95,931 to Nowak Construction for the completion of the new sewer line that serves the Russell Groves Subdivision, Grace Community Church and the city shop area.

◼ meeting as the Public Building Commission, approved an invoice from Triplett Woolf and Garreton for work completed to legally separate the former hospital building from the Salem Home operation.

◼ approved several board appointments recruited by Mayor Lou Thurston: Lena Hall, Analisa Defiesta and April Gottwald to the Com­munity Plaza Splash Pad team. Thurston said all three women had been involved with the committee, but had not been formerly appointed.

Hall will replace David Vogel, who has resigned from the team, and Defiesta and Gottwald were appointed as additional members to the team.

◼ adopted a change order costing $8,300 regarding seven items related to the B Street improvement project near Tabor College. The council approved a final payment of $53,758 to Hett Construction. The total cost of the project was $274,000.

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