Nuisance dogs will have their day per ordinance introduced to council

Sean C. Morgan

The Sweet Home City Council last week held the first reading of an ordinance that will provide more options for the city to deal with nuisance dogs.

It provides some options for the Sweet Home municipal judge when dogs are actually deemed to be a violation, said Police Chief Jeff Lynn.

“Over the last two years, the Sweet Home Police Department has become increasingly involved in local dog control issues. What had been previously handled solely by Linn County Animal Control is now being handled by officers of the Sweet Home Police Department,” Lynn said. “There are now more calls for service regarding dogs within our city.”

Sweet Home resident Jeri Reynolds outlined the problem for the council during its regular meeting on June 13. For 2½ years, she has repeatedly reported a neighbor’s barking dogs, which she said bark constantly.

The neighbor has been to court and has been fined thousands of dollars, she said, but the dogs continue to bark.

The proposed ordinance will allow the Municipal Court Judge to order a dog removed from the city or “rehomed” where appropriate.

In 2012, SHPD received 157 reports involving dogs. That increased to 160 in 2013 and 290 in 2014. In 2015, police received 426 calls; and last year, they received 466 reports involving dogs.

In 2016, officers caught 92 dogs running at large from January to November. They received 154 reports of dogs at large, 89 reports of dogs barking, 19 reports of dog bites, 37 reports of dogs left in a hot car and 65 classified as “other.”

“To actually solve this issue, a combination of education regarding responsible dog ownership and enforcement of ordinances and laws associated with dogs is necessary,” Lynn said.

The Public Safety Committee has reviewed drafts of the proposed ordinance twice, sending a recommendation to the council to pass the ordinance. Members of the committee are councilors James Goble, Susan Coleman and Mayor Greg Mahler.

The proposed ordinance deals primarily with barking dogs and dogs at large. It also requires owners of dogs to clean up behind their pets.

Reynolds told the council that it still doesn’t require owners to clean up their yards and that her neighbor doesn’t clean up after her dogs.

“It gets real odiferous on warm days,” Reynolds said.

The proposed ordinance sets a time limit of 20 minutes for barking dogs.

“My only concern is the 20-minute barking thing,” said Councilor Lisa Gourley. She told the council about an article about convicted burglars, who said the No. 1 deterrent to a burglary was the presence of a dog – not an alarm.

“I would hate to see somebody targeted to get rid of a dog,” Gourley said. “That keeps eating away at me that we have people who become vulnerable without a dog.”

Coleman said she knows a person who calls in if a dog barks for three minutes.

“What the time limit does is give the officer a way to enforce the ordinance,” said City Manager Ray Towry.

The 20 minutes is in the ordinance so an officer can look at a watch and tell if a dog is violating the ordinance, said City Attorney Robert Snyder.

“It makes it a little more black and white,” Lynn said.

Barking needs a time limit, James Goble said. With the 20-minute time limit, officers can actually move forward and do something with a barking dog.

Dogs bark, Gourley said. Around her neighborhood, if one barks, dogs at neighboring houses join in.

She is concerned about the possible effect, unless the ordinance specifically says that an officer must observe the barking for 20 minutes – otherwise “you could be in court for something you’re not guilty of.”

The violation already has a fine for a “ridiculous” amount of money, said Council member Dave Trask, but it seems like there are no consequences if someone doesn’t pay the fine and just leaves the dogs outside barking.

“This has gone on long enough,” Trask said. “There’s thousands of dollars involved with that one individual (Reynolds’ neighbor).”

Present at the meeting were councilors Coleman, Gourley, Mahler, Trask, Goble and Diane Gerson. Ryan Underwood was absent.

The council will hold two more readings of the ordinance during its regular meetings at 6:30 p.m. on June 27 and July 11. After the third reading, the council may adopt the ordinance. For more information about the proposed ordinance, call the city manager’s office at (541) 367-8969.

In other business, the council:

n Chose not to waive permit fees for a building project at Sunshine Industries.

Sunshine Industries is constructing a shop building to address vehicle maintenance needs that have increased as the organization responds to changes in state mandates, shifting priorities to help clients access the community in higher numbers.

Councilors were concerned about setting a precedent by waiving permit fees, anticipating that more nonprofit organizations would seek waivers from the fees.

Instead, councilors recommended that Sunshine Industries apply to the city’s community grant program for assitance with the cost of construction. The application period is this month. Grants will be awarded in July.

Sunshine Industries is a center for adults with developmental disabilities, serving approximately 80 clients. The program provides education, work and social opportunities for its clients. The clients provide a variety of services to the community, including shredding, janitorial and grounds keeping.

n Held the second reading of an ordinance that will amend the Comprehensive Plan by adding information from the recently completed Economic Opportunities Analysis. The third reading and decision are scheduled for the council’s regular meeting on June 27.

Nn Approved resolutions adjusting line items in the 2016-17 budget, which ends June 30. During a six-month period, eight positions were vacant, and the city used temporary employees to fill several of the positions. Funding was paid from materials and services line items, pushing them over budgeted limits and not personnel services line items.

The adjustments shift funds from personnel services to materials and services, a total of $486,000 in adjustments.

Other changes reflect additional costs incurred for training and travel, advertising for job openings and increases in salaries and insurance that were not known at the time the 2016-17 budget was developed, a total of $81,400 transferred from the General Fund contingency line item.

n Approved a contract with Grove, Mueller & Swank for auditing services for the 2016-17 fiscal year. The audit will cost $26,000. The firm has served as the city’s auditor since 2001.

n Designated numerous items stored at the city’s 9th Avenue property as surplus, authorizing city staff to discard the property.

The surplus property includes numerous laptop and desktop computers, desks, file cabinets, a drying oven, a typewriter, a projector, printers, mowers, a tape recorder, TV-VCR combination devices, a fax machine, tables and similar items.

Over the years, as departments no longer needed broken or unused property, it accumulated in a shop building at the old Water Treatment Plant.

The property is now for sale, and the stored items need to be removed, said Finance Director Pat Gray.

The state no longer accepts personal property items for auction, eBbay is too time-consuming and local auctions yield minimal proceeds compared to the staff time involved in setting them up.

Some of the items may be given to nonprofit and governmental agencies if requested, Gray said.