"Me and mom tried to get liability insurance and several companies said they wouldn't do that," said Daniel Keller. "I talked to Albert and he said he even had trouble trying to do the same thing for his dogs. It's just impossible to get the insurance on your dogs like you're asking for."
Police Chief Al Roork related to the council that he had found 24 pit bulls and eight rottweilers within the city limits since the ordinance went into effect.
"Most all of those dogs I petted while I was visiting with the owners," said Roork. "I didn't have problems from anyone; most everyone was pretty receptive. I think that we unknowingly and unintentionally passed a law that our citizens cannot comply with."
According to Roork, Robert and Kathy Mills who operate North Arkansas Veterinary Hospital on Highway 62 towards Ash Flat are now offering computer chipping for dogs.
"They have the gun that inserts it into the dog and it's permanent," said Roork. "For $50 they will install this chip in a dog, and it covers the national registration and everything, and they have a wand that you can wave over a dog, dead or alive, and it can tell you who that dog belonged to at the time of chipping. That might be a viable alternative, and most of the people here are pretty receptive to that."
Dog owner Patty Wallace echoed the sentiments of many in the meeting room regarding the ordinance and the costs involved in being in compliance with it.
"I applaud the city council for doing something; however, on the same note -- Help," said Wallace. "We want to keep our animals, and we will comply to the best of our ability. Those of us who are responsible dog owners, I feel like we're being punished for having the kind of dog that I have. It is not the animal's fault; it's the owner's responsibility. If the owner is not responsible, they don't need to have the dog, period. As a dog owner, I understand the ordinance and I know why it's necessary, but the insurance is just too high a cost to bear."
"I sure want to try to work with these people and let them keep their dogs without them having to do without everything that they need in their household," said Roork. "It's way more than a pet to some of these people; I'm telling you, it's family to a lot of them. But with that said, these dogs can still be territorial and they can still be very dangerous under certain circumstances."
Mayor Gary Clayton agreed that the ordinance was in need of a revision. "Dewayne (Plumlee) put that provision in the ordinance, and since we've found out that folks can't comply with it, well, I think we need to do something to alleviate this by amending the existing ordinance," said Clayton. "Chipping is good for us and for the owner too, because if that dog gets lost or gets away it makes it easier to find it."
The council agreed to have city attorney Dewayne Plumlee amend the ordinance and replace the insurance requirements with a chipping requirement for all dogs listed as dangerous dogs.
"We will have to pass an amendment to that ordinance, which takes out the insurance requirement and replaces it with the chipping," said Clayton. "We'll do that at the next meeting. In the meantime, we won't do any enforcement on the insurance requirement."
Chief Roork then brought up a few dogs he would like the council to show leniency on. "We have one guy up here with a rottweiler who has never been out," said Roork. "The dog's in the last year or so of his life. He doesn't see very well and he doesn't hear very good. There's another dog here that's a pit bull and he can't hear or see. He's very friendly, and he's in the last months of his life too. I don't want to have those two dogs neutered because it would kill them. We have to exercise some common sense too along with this ordinance. A young dog needs to be neutered, I think, if they're that type of dog. It will make them more docile and save them from some health problems in later years, especially if they're a male dog."
One concerned citizen felt it was unfair to lump all dogs listed in the ordinance together as dangerous dogs, if only one or two specific dogs have caused trouble in the past.
"I understand what you're saying, and I own three rottweiler," said Roork. "They are docile dogs, but they are capable of extreme power, and are very capable of doing a lot of damage if something goes wrong. Most of these dogs here in town I have petted, but there were a few dogs that I wouldn't have went within a mile of, because the owners warned me up front that they will bite. Whatever we do has to be done uniformly with everyone. If you live in Mountain Home, you're not going to have a pit bull, period. We want you to have your dog, but we also want you to keep that dog safe from the public."
Mayor Clayton assured the crowd that the city was doing its best to handle the issue responsibly and fairly.
"I want everyone to know that we're not trying to be unduly hard on anybody," said Clayton. "We had a need that had to be addressed, and we felt that this was an adequate way to do it. Hopefully over the long haul it will work out best for everybody."
Chief Roork explained that the whole purpose of the ordinance is to eventually weed these dangerous dogs out of the city limits through attrition.
"Coming up here in the summer at a given point and time, we aren't going to allow anybody else to register a dangerous dog, as defined by the ordinance," said Roork. "If they didn't get their dog registered then tough, the dog's gone; they will get arrested and the dog will be gone. No new dogs of this type are going to be brought in. That's what the purpose of this was. We're going to enforce this thing ya'll. We're absolutely going to enforce it."
The council then moved on to other business, beginning with the monthly police report.
The department responded to 61 complaints, managed to recover one stolen vehicle which had been stolen seven years ago, handled six domestic disputes, two reported thefts and one violation of the new dog ordinance, among other items.
The fire department had 15 calls last month, nine of which were grass fires, one was an EMS call, three were for car fires, two were house fires and one was an electrical fire.
"We did two inspections, one for each day care, and we went over the Mexican restaurant with a fine tooth comb the day it opened for insurance purposes," said Fire Chief Heath Everett.
Bill Worsham of the Public Works Department reported that the water department had repaired five water leaks, replaced two angle valves, and repaired the water level indicator on the water tower. The wastewater department cleaned 3,700 feet of line in the past 30 days.
The street department trimmed around the square and has been kept busy picking up debris and brush after each windy day.
"At the city park, we cleaned the pool and got it ready," said Worsham. "We also worked on the park on the east side of town. We have two new people working with us under some new work programs, with a third person pending."
Mayor Clayton then updated the council on payments received from the state for the 2009 ice storm clean up.
"We did receive final payment from the state on the 12.5 percent reimbursement from the ice storm cleanup last year," said Clayton. "We had projected that their share of it would be around $12,500. We wound up with a little over $15,000. That will officially close that project out. All federal and state reimbursements have been received and that will officially close that project out pending our overall city audit which is typically in May."
Next up, the council reviewed a new house numbering ordinance that had been drafted by the city attorney.
"This is a rough ordinance based on an ordinance passed a few years back by the Quorum Court of the county, which requires that numbers be posted on all properties outside of the city but within the county," said Clayton. "It states that each person, firm, corporation, partnership or other entity who has been assigned an official e-911 address, shall display said numbers in such a manner as should be clearly visible from the road. It goes on to say that said numbers shall be at least three inches in height and displayed in a conspicuous place."
Mayor Clayton pointed out that the ordinance in it's current form did not dictate where the numbers needed to be placed and suggested that the council consider clarifying that.
Chief Roork suggested they be immediately to the side of the residence's front door, approximately 4 1/2 to 5--feet high.
Fire Chief Everett expressed his concern that homes set back from the road or with a long driveway might make it too difficult to read the numbers from the street.
"If it's not visible then we've just defeated the purpose because I know ya'll are closer to it than I am, but I have seen some occasion where an ambulance was dispatched, and there weren't any numbers there and they wasted time when time is of the essence," said Clayton. "Now this is relatively simple, and it's not going to be anything that's going to be a big pain on anybody and it just might save somebody's life down the road."
The council agreed that the numbers had to be clearly visible by emergency personnel from the roadway, and Mayor Clayton stated that he would have the ordinance revised and ready for the next council meeting.
The mayor then brought the council up to date on the proposed grant for a new dump truck to be used with the chipper the city bought last month.
"At the last council meeting, you authorized me to submit an application for this dump truck project, and we have submitted the pre-application for the grant and they should let us know in late May or early June if our proposal meets the criteria," said Clayton. "If it does we'll be invited to submit a full grant application, and action on that will be taken by October. We have requested $36,975, which is 75 percent of the proposed project cost, so hopefully by the next meeting or the one after it, we'll know if we qualified."
Treasurer Pam Bryant reported that city sales tax revenues were on track and the mayor expressed his optimism that they should continue on budget and perhaps even improve some as the tourist season gets underway.
An angry resident complained to the council that he had called Bill Worsham about a month and a half ago to complain of large potholes on Fairview Road that are approximately ankle deep, and little had been done to repair them.
Councilman Richard Frazier, who works for the county road department, said he had used some left over pre-mix to fill one of the worst holes as a courtesy, since Fairview Road is right on the county line.
Worsham stated that he is waiting on summer pre-mix to come in before he conducts repairs on the remaining potholes. "If you put winter cold mix in a pothole, it's going to fall right out."
That didn't seem to appease the angry resident. "Now, whenever I hit a pothole and ruin a tire or ruin something else on the car, I can bring the bill to the city and they're going to pay it," he said.
"I doubt it," said Worsham. "Have you ever tried slowing down a little?"
"Don't tell me to slow down or to try and slow down," said the resident. "There's all kinds of people that go up and down that road, and if ya'll don't get it fixed then it seems like the city would be liable. It's a city street."
The mayor requested that Worsham get the summer pre-mix ordered as quickly as possible, so the needed repairs could be made.
Barbara Keller then addressed the council regarding a speeding concern on North Street.
"I'd like to ask for some speed signs in town," said Keller. "Drivers come down North Street doing 35 to 50 miles per hour all the time. It's like a speedway. I've almost gotten hit, my kids have almost gotten hit, and my grandkids, and I've had two dogs killed there. I live on the corner of North and Elm, and I've only seen one speed sign and that's over on this next street."
Mayor Clayton and Police Chief Roork agreed to look into the problem and post a recognizable police presence in the area.
Next on the agenda was the city pool manager position, which the council had filled last month, only to have the employee quit.
"We received four applications from folks who are interested in that position and we have three here tonight, so we'll go into executive session and talk to these individuals individually and then make a motion to hire one of them," said Clayton.
The council then adjourned into executive session, and upon returning to open session, announced that Alex Smith had been hired for the position.
The council then moved to adjourn. The next city council meeting will be Thursday, May 27 at 7 p.m.