County supes to slate hearing on vicious animal ordinance

~by Janice Harbaugh for GreeneCountyNewsOnline

The Greene County supervisors will start the new year with consideration of an ordinance regarding dangerous and vicious animals. County attorney Thomas Laehn presented a draft of the ordinance at the board’s regular meeting Dec. 30.

Laehn was asked by county sheriff Jack Williams to prepare the ordinance. Laehn said it is based on ordinances in Benton and Linn counties which seem, in his opinion, to meet constitutional standards.

Supervisor Tom Contner asked, “Who defines (the difference between) vicious and dangerous?” Laehn replied the board makes that distinction. He said, “People can own a dangerous animal under certain conditions, but not an animal deemed vicious.”

The legal requirements for keeping dangerous animals is described in the proposed ordinance and requires signage on the property.

The seven-page proposed ordinance defines “vicious animal” as one that has attacked or bitten a person in an unprovoked manner. The board is being asked to further define the time frame of the bites, such as two bites in a twelve-month period, and whether keeping a vicious animal is a civil penalty or a simple misdemeanor.

A civil infraction could result in a fine and a simple misdemeanor could result in jail time.
The proposed ordinance also covers appeals process and euthanasia of offending animals as well as variances, financial liability of animal owners, and other points.

The board set a public hearing and first reading for the proposed ordinance for Jan. 6 at the regular board meeting held in the courthouse at 8:30 am. A copy of the proposed ordinance is available at the auditor’s office.

The supervisors also heard progress reports and requests for funding from two programs.

The Bell Tower Foundation was represented by Carole Custer and Bob Schwarzkopf who requested an increase in funding from $7,500 to $8,000 for FY21. They set a goal of 6,000 visitors for next year to be accomplished through increased advertising.

Past year accomplishments included a feature article on the Mahanay Memorial Carillon Tower published in Our Iowa magazine, bus tours to the tower, rental of the observation deck, and live bell music played by the Mahanay Maestros, local volunteer musicians, during the summer and the Christmas season.

Anticipated expenses will be elevator repair, analysis of summer temperatures in the observation deck and a possible air conditioning solution, and continued tuning of the bells by Verdin, the manufacturer of the bells. Custer and Schwarzkopf reported an income from tourism at $11,421 in 2019.

The board did not act on the funding request.

Rick Hunsacker, Region XII Council of Governments executive director, spoke of increased costs for FY21 regarding COG membership fees, Western Iowa Transit operated by Region XII, and the local housing trust fund through COG housing. Hunsacker requested $8,215.68 funding to cover membership fees and $4,854.72 to cover use of Western Iowa Transit. These figures include $.01 increase per capita over the previous year. Vehicle replacement capital match funds were requested at $540 for FY21.

Hunsacker said there are five light-duty vans in service with three fulltime drivers who provide transportation services from 5 am to 5 pm and after-hours Medicaid trips to Iowa City as needed.

Hunsaker also requested $5,000 for the local housing trust fund to be used in an annual grant for people with very low income. This is equal to the current funding.

No action was taken by the board.

In other business, the board unanimously approved the transfer of $50,000 from the general basic fund to the conservation reserve fund, $8000 from the general basic fund to the bike trail fund, and $5000 from local option sales and service tax (LOSST) funds to the bike trail fund.

The LOSST is a 1-cent tax approved by Greene county voters in 2014.

Dan Towers, conservation, reported the Raccoon River Valley Trail bridge repair south of Jefferson has been delayed by FEMA concerns over historic preservation of the bridge.

The board unanimously approved a resolution to temporarily close 200th St near a tributary of Otter Creek in Kendrick township in order to repair a bridge. The road affected is a gravel road, starting where it intersects with B Ave and continuing one mile west to A Ave. No date was set for the closure.

Murphy Heavy Contracting from Anita will do the work at an estimated cost of $40,000 over an estimated time frame of three weeks.

The board unanimously approved a resolution to sell property at 701 Grant St in Scranton to the city of Scranton. The property was acquired by the county and will be sold for $500 plus unpaid taxes and assessments.

A public hearing on the matter was set for Monday, Jan 13, at 9:15 am in the courthouse boardroom in Jefferson. All local residents who appear at the meeting will be able to express views for and against the proposed sale.

Chuck Wenthold, environment department, reported the unemployment rate for November in Greene County was 1.6 percent. This is considered “full employment.”

Resolution 2019-59 was unanimously approved by the board: “The Greene County board of supervisors commends Mike Wyatt for dedicating nearly sixteen years to maintenance and custodial services at the courthouse. Mike’s dedication and commitment to Greene County and its citizens will long be remembered.”

A framed certificate was presented to Wyatt at the board meeting. A reception will be held in the courthouse on Jan 2 from 1 to 4 pm.

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