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Council approves expansion of animal neglect ordinance

By James Grob,

The Charles City Council unanimously amended the city code regarding animal neglect at Monday’s meeting.

“The state code provisions for animal neglect were recently changed, and we’re just taking the state code and using it to update our provisions,” city attorney Brad Sloter informed the council at last Wednesday’s work session. He said that the previous ordinance was very short and that the new language expanded and clarified the ordinance.

City administrator Steve Diers agreed, saying the previous ordinance was just one paragraph long.

“It just says you’ll give them (the pets) food and water, and it doesn’t go into much detail,” Diers said. “This really better defines what neglect means.”

Council member DeLaine Freeseman said he saw some things in the new ordinance that he liked.

“I’ve seen some pets around down haven’t had the best of homes, the way they are living, but this might be a rude awakening for some of our pet owners in town,” Freeseman said.

Most of the council members agreed on Monday that the expanded language is an improvement.

Sloter said that there are only two or three animal neglect charges in Charles City in any given year, but the expanded language would give local law enforcement more options to file charges under the city code.

The expanded language says that it is unlawful for a person who owns or has custody of an animal and confines that animal to fail to provide the animal with access to food in an amount and quality reasonably sufficient to satisfy the animal’s basic nutrition level to the extent that the animal’s health or life is endangered; access to a supply of potable water in an amount reasonably sufficient to satisfy the animal’s basic nutrition level to the extent that the animal’s health or life is endangered.

The code says that access to snow or ice does not satisfy this requirement. It also requires sanitary conditions free from excessive animal waste or the overcrowding of animals to the extent that the animal’s health or life is endangered and ventilated shelter reasonably sufficient to provide adequate protection from the elements and weather conditions suitable for the age, species, and physical condition of the animal.

The shelter must protect the animal from wind, rain, snow, or sun and have adequate bedding to provide reasonable protection against cold and dampness. A shelter may include a residence, garage, barn, shed, or doghouse.

The new code also requires grooming — to the extent it is reasonably necessary to prevent adverse health effects or suffering — and adequate veterinary care.

In other action on Monday, the council approved a proposed change order for the 2020 HMA Paving Project to overlay railroad crossings at North Grand Ave. and E. Street.

City Engineer John Fallis told the council that the staff has been working with the Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) and Farmers Feed and Grain (FFG) to improve the street surface conditions at the unused railroad crossings at North Grand Avenue and E Street. The rough crossings are railroad sidings owned by FFG.

By agreement with FFG, the maintenance of these sidings is the responsibility of the CP. The sidings are no longer connected to the main line track and are not useable.

The CP has failed to maintain the street surface and will not commit to making the improvements. The CP has provided authority to the city to place an asphalt overlay on the crossings to improve the rideability of the street. The CP has indicated it does not have funds budgeted to pay for this work and the local jurisdictions pay for this street work in other communities.

Sloter said he has investigated the state code regarding railroad companies’ financial responsibility for street crossing repairs, and he will provide information regarding the process to potentially seek reimbursement from the CP for the work.

The cost to repair the street surface is $25,000 and includes work at both the two unused crossings at North Grand Avenue and the one unused crossing at E Street.

Mayor Dean Andrews said that the money was well spent, as it represented $25,000 in “good will” to the people of the neighborhood who have been expressing concerns about the crossing for more than eight years. Council member Jerry Joerger agreed that the money was a good investment.

Also at the meeting on Monday, the council approved additional compensation for City Clerk Trudy O’Donnell and City Administrator Steve Diers for the duties and additional hours they have taken on as part of the telecom board. Sloter recommended amending their contracts to authorize “extraordinary duty pay” in an amount to be decided by the council.

Sloter recommended the compensation be in one lump sum, and said the city would be reimbursed the amount when the financing for the telecom project comes through. Both Diers and O’Donnell said they found that acceptable.

O’Donnell will receive a lump-sum payment (less tax withholding) of $1,762.20 for extraordinary duty pay for said fiscal year, payable on or before Oct. 15. Diers will receive a lump-sum payment (less tax withholding) of $16,065.

In other business, the council approved a change order for the 2020 Main Street Bridge repair project. Fallis told the council that Jasper Construction, the general contractor for the project, recently reviewed the area at the bridge’s northwest wing wall to start the repair work.

The construction contract has bid items to access and repair the concrete fascia by removing and replacing sections of the face of the wall and injecting and epoxy material into the existing cracks. It was determined the wall has suffered additional deterioration since Calhoun Burn and Associate’s (CBA) survey of the wall for the project’s design.

Fallis said that due to the high unit cost for the concrete repair bid item, it is not cost feasible to increase this bid item quantity. CBA has designed a repair consisting of a structural wall or “jacket” tied to and added to the outside edge of the northwest wing wall to securely repair the wall.

Since three contract items can be eliminated from the project if the wall is built, the increase cost to add the structural wall is $28,450.

Also, the conduit and light receptacles that were previously used to light the Main Street dam are no longer in working order. These are still located on the outside edge of the sidewalk and the staff recommends they be removed. The cost to remove and dispose of the former lighting feature is $3,265.

Also Monday, the council approved an ordinance that would amend the city code to match state code for standard misdemeanor penalties. Sloter explained that state code was recently updated from a minimum penalty of $65 to $105, and the maximum penalty of $805 to $855 for a simple misdemeanor, and the city code would need to be amended to match the state law. The violator will not be subject to the penalty of imprisonment.

In other business on Monday, the council:
— Approved a payment estimate for the Water Resource Recovery Facility project. Payment Estimate No. 11 is in the amount of $652,090.46. The costs are mainly for construction work on the oxidation ditch, equalization basin, and reed beds. Fox Engineering had previously reviewed the payment request and recommended approval.
— Approved the August financials for the City of Charles City and the Charles City public employee health plan.
— Reappointed Marta Fisher to the library board and appointed Cheryl Nootnagel and Coulter Page to replace Mike Brummond And Angel McKenzie.
— Tabled a leachate agreement between Charles City and the Floyd, Mitchell and Chickasaw County landfill.