~by Janice Harbaugh for GreeneCountyNewsOnline
During a lengthy regular meeting on Sept 24, the Jefferson city council discussed budget priorities for fiscal year 2020-21, heard from a citizen concerning feral cats, discussed animal welfare and wildlife habitat, and carried on other regular business.
As in previous years, the mayor and council members had rated a list of 30 items of importance to residents of the city on a 3-point scale, with 1 being highest priority. The scores were tabulated and presented to the council with previous years’ scores included for comparison. Lower scores indicated higher ranking since a score of 6 would mean the mayor and all 5 council members ranked an item as #1 priority. Ranking scores ranged from 6 to 17. More than 1 item could receive the same priority score.
The highest priority this year went to housing, as in almost every year since 2014. Economic development and obtaining grants remain high priority as does building maintenance, code enforcement, drainage improvements, neighborhood improvements, and water and sewer line improvements. These have all risen by several points from previous years.
The Main Street Program rose from a priority ranking of 11 last year to a ranking of 9.
The proposed animal shelter rose from a ranking of 13 last year to a ranking of 11. The lowest ranking items included the golf course, swimming pool, and cemetery improvements.
Click here to see the complete tabulation.
The council discussed animals and wildlife at length. During the open forum part of the meeting, Chuck Greiner spoke in favor of a trap-neuter-release approach to the problem of feral cats. He said, “Cats are hard-working and eat rodents.” Historically, cultures that respected cats “didn’t have plague.”
Later, council member Matt Gordon said trap-neuter-release “doesn’t reduce the population quick enough.” He spoke of solutions needing to be “humane” and for “the welfare of the animals.”
Various members of the council have been meeting with experts in the field of feral cats and these meetings will continue. It is an issue that many have strong views about. Gordon characterized these meetings as “respectful” and “productive.”
Council member Darren Jackson said, “the Jefferson situation (with cats) is unique.” He hopes for a report on solutions around the first of the year.
A related issue is the proposed animal shelter. Donations have dwindled far short of the needed funding. Some grants are time-limited and could run out before the full amount is raised.
Council member Dave Sloan summarized fundraising so far and the council discussed possibilities for funding. One idea was to scale back the proposed facility by eliminating features such as the dog park. The council agreed, however, the dog park is a popular idea in the community and would be an attractive amenity for bringing new residents.
The council agreed to explore possibilities in addition to donations for funding the animal shelter.
Mayor Craig Berry spoke of a wildlife habitat and flowers in an area of Daubendiek Park as a means of beautifying and reducing the mowing. He said a possibility could be planting milkweed for Monarch butterflies.
The issue of drainage was discussed as related to an area north of Highway 30 near Wild Rose Casino. The area is suitable for development but has not yet garnered interest from developers.
Several on the council agreed the area needs drainage improvement but they didn’t think it was the reason holding up development. Berry was of the opinion it isn’t the responsibility of the city to develop it. One issue is that a drainage district in that area would include agricultural land as well as urban development land. Agricultural landowners would not want to pay for drainage improvements for urban development.
In regular business, two new firefighters were appointed to the Jefferson fire department, Jacob Fester and Ted Semke, and there was a first reading of an ordinance to increase the per call rate for firefighters from $15 to $20, effective Oct. 1.
The council unanimously approved the purchase of single memberships at the Greene County Community Center for Jefferson firefighters. Jack Williams, Jefferson fire chief, told the council that cardiac arrest after a fire call is a major cause of firefighter death and he cited the loss of chief Randy Love several years ago. Working out at the Rec Center could increase cardiac health of firefighters.
There were first readings of ordinances to increase base water rates by 3 percent and base sewer rates by 3 percent. The council agreed this is necessary due to “aging infrastructure” and EPA requirements for “testing more and testing more often (water).” The increase also factors in cost for chemicals and plant improvements. The council was told the last rate increase was 18 months ago.
The council approved purchase of police administration vehicles: a 2019 Ford F-150 for $33,000 and a 2019 Dodge Charger for $27,000.