Sylacauga City Council considers animal control update
by Emily McLain
SYLACAUGA – During a Monday work session, the City Council was presented an updated animal control ordinance that proposes increased fines and a required pet license for owners.

Animal Control Officer Michelle Taylor prepared the extensive proposal, looking to ordinances in other cities across the state as guidance. Since June 2012, Taylor has responded to 953 calls and picked up 479 dogs, and she said the updated ordinance will address many of the issues she deals with on a regular basis.

“It basically just goes into more depth of defining and describing what’s in place now,” she said. “A lot of it applies to the calls I’m responding to that have come up over time.”

The biggest changes, she said, are stricter enforcement of the state rabies law and higher fines for animals at large.

As one part of the changes, Taylor suggested a city-wide pet registry requiring owners to register their pet and state that the animal has current rabies vaccination. The annual registry fee is suggested at $10 if the animal is spayed or neutered and up to $50 if it is not fixed.

In addition, fines for dogs deemed “running at large,” defined as a dog not on its owner’s property or person and not kept in restraint, were increased to $50 for the first violation and $125 and $250 for the second and third violations within a 12-month period.

“It’s going to make pet owners be responsible for their pet, because that’s a big issue right now,” Taylor said. “They don’t care where their dog is or what it does.”

Council President Rocky Lucas asked if the ordinance includes limitations on the number of animals a person can own, and Taylor said it does not, but that can be added. She said the proposal does include limitations for barking and odors, neither of which are in the current ordinance.

Councilman Tom Roberts said the updated ordinance will lessen the high costs of animal control.

“Basically, in the last 25 or 30 years, we’ve had a parade of entities operate the animal shelter, and one thing has been common throughout, and that’s worry over how expensive it is, yet of all those taking care of that particular chore, we have never had a comprehensive look at our animal control ordinance as a tool, along with education, to help reduce the population of extra animals running around and give people reasons to be responsible pet owners,” Roberts said.

Lucas said councilmen need time to dissect the proposal before making decisions and will address it further with Taylor at a later meeting.

Also during the work session, the council discussed the $185,000 cash offer from Bob and Carolyn Green to purchase 57.3 acres of city-owned property at Lake Louise, near Old Birmingham Highway. When the council reviewed the offer last month, councilmen seemed in favor of it; however, Mayor Doug Murphree said several issues have come to light since then.

“We’ve got some additional property that borders that on the back side, and if we do sell it, we need to make sure we don’t cut access to that property off,” he said. “Also, there’s been talk about a road from (Highway 511) to (Alabama 21), a connector road, and some of that property would be utilized for that route. So that’s just something to think about.”

Roberts said he has “been hit by an awful lot of people” about this subject, and “one particular factor got a lot of attention from a lot of people is the fact that it’s a spring-fed lake that has never gone dry…That could possibly end up being an important water source for us down the road. In general, people that talked to me about it were very adamant and very passionate, and they were not in favor.”

Lucas said he had received the same response from citizens, adding that he has concerns about the cost of the land and whether it has been fairly appraised. Councilmen Billy Carden and Joe Hogan said they are also opposed to the sale.

“I think when we’re looking at potentially putting a shopping center almost adjacent to that property, that value is going to go up,” Hogan said. “If I lived over there, I would probably want to buy it, if I had the resources also, to keep development from coming in, and I’m sure that’s why he’s doing it, but in our best interest, we need to hold onto that.”

The council will vote on that issue at its Wednesday meeting. In other business Monday night, the council:

• Interviewed Jim Green for the Historical Commission and Carol Woodring and Bill Roberts for the Tree Commission.

• Discussed hosting a three-day municipal board training seminar at the end of the month for a discounted price of $564 a person.

• Discussed an FAA grant amendment for an additional $150,000 on top of the Municipal Airport’s annual $150,000 entitlement funds. The council decided not to take action on the matter until land owned by the Industrial Development Board is removed from the airport’s development plans.

• Decided to have attorney Robert Gilpin review the proposed contract for a retail shopping center along U.S. 280 from by Birmingham-based Shopping Center Group.

• Decided to look into a landlock paving system to repave roads in Marble City Cemetery.

The council meets Wednesday at 9 a.m. at City Hall.

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© 2013