Manila Council tables new dog ordinance

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Town Crier News Staff

Manila City Council members continued their discussion on a vicious dog ordinance at the regular meeting Monday evening, May 21. Council members had discussed at the April meeting changing the existing ordinance defining vicious dogs as pit bulls, possibly banning pit bulls and giving owners one year to get rid of their dogs.

"I sent you (council members) a copy of the ordinance Osceola passed," Mayor Clifford Veach said. "It does allow people to have pit bulls but has more restrictions on owners including requiring them to have liability insurance."

Councilman Donnie Wagner said he thought the council out to look at "grandfathering in" the pit bulls already in town.

"If I remember our discussion, we talked about grandfathering in or banning," Mayor Veach said. "I would say if we grandfather in, the owners need to meet the requirements of the present ordinance."

Councilmen Linda Donovan and Larry "Whiz" Davis both agreed the ordinance needs to be enforced.

"We've got some lap dogs in town and I hate to see people have to get rid of their pets," Wagner said.

Councilman Dean Cherry said he thought the city's current ordinance would work if the owners met the requirements and fixed the pens as they should be.

"My biggest concern is I want the dog owners to take responsibility," Councilman Leroy Douglas said.

Veach said the ordinance he sent out for review is strict on pit bull owners if they are going to keep them.

"The pens should be made so the dogs can't dig under or jump over," Cherry said. "We have a lot of pit bulls not in pens, not muzzled when on a leash (requirements in the present ordinance). I am worried about the kids."

City Attorney Wayne Wagner read part of the city's current vicious dog ordinance. Requirements included enclosed pens with locks, and any time the dog is on a leash it should be wearing a muzzle. The ordinance also requires all dogs in the city limits to be registered and have city tags.

Wagner went on to say the present ordinance sets fines at no less than $5 and no more than $100 for each violation.

"Plus, violators will have to appear in court and court costs are up to $125," Wagner said.

Wagner said he had researched ordinances from all over the state.

"You can do what you want as far as grandfathering, requiring muzzles, or registering," Wagner said.

Councilman Dwight Booth said he registered his dog (an Irish Setter) and the license number was 01, which means no dog has been registered this year. Booth said Steve Bowman (animal control officer) said if the dogs are registered he has the owner's name and address.

"If a dog comes up missing and he finds it, he can return it to its owners or at least give them a call," Booth said.

The cost of registering and tags is $2.50 plus shots.

Davis said he gets more complaints about barking dogs than vicious dogs and asked if the present ordinance had a nuisance clause.

Wagner said that would be in violation of the ordinance and also subject to the $5 to $100 fine.

Douglas said the city needs to encourage dog owners to register their dogs.

"If we are going to enforce what we have, it is going to take some time and organization," Veach said.

Council agreed to table the issue for a month.

Water park/swimming pool

Mayor Veach said in his opinion it is time to start moving toward a water park or swimming pool or both.

"I think the city can afford a water park now, but we can't afford a pool without a tax increase. I think we can get a 50/50 matching grant through the Arkansas Parks and Recreation for a water park. Lake City put in a nice water park at a cost of $160,000 with Parks and Tourism furnishing half," Veach said. "We could probably do a water park without a grant, but it would be foolish to not to try to get a grant. The grant process is a lot of work but it is worth it if the city is approved."

He went on to talk about a swimming pool.

"I know the people in town thought the tax they passed would pay for a swimming pool but it will not," Veach said. "I've been back in office 4-1/2 years and the tax has accumulated $130,000. We will never be able to build a pool like that. It would take twice that much or more with inflation."

Veach said the city had applied for a grant to help with the swimming pool but it was denied.

He said he thought a one half cent tax increase would build the pool, and once it was built one fourth cent should take care of the maintenance. For an indoor pool the half cent would need to remain.

"We should put it to the voters and let them decide," Veach said.

"I would like to see us move forward and let the public let us know if they want it," Douglas said.

Douglas made a motion to pursue a grant for a water park and let the voters vote on a tax to fund a swimming pool. The motion carried unanimously.

Parking problems

Three downtown business owners addressed the council about parking problems on Baltimore Street (main street) of Manila.

Lowell Polston, owner of Pro Hardware; Rosemary Polston, owner of Show Time Video; and Teresa Fleeman, owner of Tropical Palms, asked the council to consider two hour parking signs.

The merchants said since the Friday night auction started people sometimes park from 5 p.m. to the length of the auction.

"My customers usually come in and shop for five or 10 minutes," Mrs. Polston said. "It is a real issue, especially on rain nights. I had a customer walk two blocks in the rain to shop five minutes for a movie because they couldn't park in front of my store."

She said she has put a customer-only parking sign in front of her business, but sometimes it works and sometimes it does not.

Fleeman agreed the parking has been a problem for her customers, also.

"I think two hours is reasonable," Douglas said. "There is no way to make more parking spaces so we need to utilize what we have."

"I think the business owners should get together and try to resolve the problem," Councilman Wagner said.

Mrs. Polston said talking had been unsuccessful.

"I wish we had someone here from the auction," Mayor Veach said.

Baltimore Street is a state highway and the city would have to get approval to put up signs.

The council tabled the matter until next month's meeting.

"There is not an easy solution to this," Mayor Veach said.

In other business:

*Council voted to accept a proposal from the fire department with an increase in compensation since health insurance is not available to the fire fighters through the Municipal League.

"Are the firemen happy with this proposal?" Councilman Booth asked.

Veach said it is their proposal. It passed unanimously.

"I have been told we do not appreciate our firemen," Davis said. "I'm here to say I appreciate the firemen and the work they do."

*The council voted to continue with the mosquito control program same as last year. The city purchases the garlic spray and allows city residents to purchase it at half price.

*Veach updated the council on the problems with the new sewer system saying he had met with the construction company representatives and they have agreed to bring the system up to the guidelines. They asked we spend $5,000 on needed equipment. Their part will be $8,000 to $10,000. The council approved the $5,000.

*The council reviewed the budget. Veach said the city is 33 percent into the year and everything looks pretty good.

*Veach presented a plan from Jewell Engineering done a few years ago on a sidewalk project. Veach said the city did not accept the grant to go forward with the project. He said the route in front of Farmers Market across Lake Street looked unsafe. He said he would be interested in finding a safer way to the park, maybe from the school. Council agreed to table the matter giving them time to look at different options.

*The council voted to purchase $400 of advertising during the annual Buffalo Island American Cancer Relay for Life scheduled for June 15.

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