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Ash Flat opts out of animal control effort

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Quad Cities are not united in everything.At the May 16 Ash Flat council meeting the council voted 4-1 not to participate in a committee established to provide areawide animal control. Alderman Cindy Asher cast the lone vote in favor of the unified animal control measure.

Alderman Carolyn Stewart said she has received many phone calls from residents in her ward regarding the proposed areawide program which led to her decision to vote against the effort.

"I've been told Ash Flat doesn't have an animal control problem," she said.

Ash Flat showed the most representation at the initial animal control meeting held last month in Cherokee Village. Six Ash Flat public officials attended. That meeting showed the council a lot, Mayor Brien Nix Hall said. "After going to that meeting I can't say that we need to put our money in that," Hall said.

Quad City programs are often not beneficial to the city, Hall said. Many times Cherokee Village and Ash Flat are left paying the bill when Hardy and Highland don't hold up their part of the bargain, he said.

Alderman Marty Goodwin, who was one of the four who voted not to participate, said other city residents could participate if they choose.

"There may be some citizens that want to do it," Goodwin said. "We don't want to do it, but someone else might want to."

Recorder/treasurer Charlotte Goodwin said she is concerned about what will happen to the city in the future if the council doesn't participate.

"I'm afraid if we don't step up and participate we will have an animal control problem," she said.

The committee, now called Spring River Animal Control Services, wants more members on the newly formed committee. Cherokee Village Alderman Peter Martin, who organized getting the cities together for animal control, said at a Cherokee Village council meeting May 19 that the committee needs at least 12 members to apply for grants to help fund animal control.

Cherokee Village, Hardy and Highland have each appointed two members.

Before he discovered Ash Flat would not participate, Martin expected to have two members from Ash Flat and approach both Sharp and Fulton counties to find two additional members from each county. The counties have not been approached yet, he said.

The group agreed to establish a committee to determine the animal control needs of the area. The group is not looking at constructing a shelter at present, Martin said.

However, the group is looking for land to set up a base of operation, he said.

Cherokee Village and Ash Flat are the only two cities that have animal control ordinances. Officials from Highland and Hardy have denied having a need for a formal animal control program, but readily agreed to participate in the meeting. Animal control has been a sore subject among Cherokee Village residents and the city council for almost two years -- the same amount of time it's been since the city complied with its own animal control ordinance.

The city had an animal control officer until he resigned in October 2003 and was never replaced. Since that time animal control calls have been directed through the police department.

Citations are the only way the city can currently handle animal control calls, but during April's district court session the judge dismissed one such citation because the city is also breaking its own animal control law by not providing an animal control officer, Cherokee Village Recorder/treasurer Susan Maynard said.

The council passed the third reading of an amended animal control ordinance at its May 19 meeting. "Animal control is going to be an issue until we get something done," Cherokee Village Alderman Jim Fenton said. In Ash Flat the responsibility of animal control falls to the police department. Officers respond to animal calls and the city contracts with North Arkansas Boarding Kennel near Ash Flat to house loose or abandoned animals. The only problem the department has is after the kennel closes each day officers don't have a facility where they can place animals, Ash Flat Police Chief Mike Zeiger said.

"From my personal standpoint, we're kind of taking care of our own," he said.

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