MARCH 16, 2015
The Council of the City of Augusta, Kansas met in regular session on March 16, 2015, with Mayor Matt Childers presiding. Council present were Jason Lowery, Cale Magruder, Paul Belt, Jamie Crum, Sue Jones, Ron Reavis and Matt Malone. Councilman Mike Rawlings was absent. Also present: City Attorney Austin Parker, City Manager Josh Shaw, Assistant City Manager Cody Sims, Director of Electric Utility Bill Webster, Street/Sanitation Superintendent Anthony Craft, and City Clerk Erica Jones. Visitors present were: Belinda Larsen, John Black, Tom Leffler, Gary Rogers, Myrna Rogers, Rick Martindale, Troy Palmer, Eric Birk, Janet Ternes, Jeff Engle, Traevor McPherson, Sue Marczynski, Tammey Stubbs, Kevin Barnes, Sherlyn Moore, Andrea Koegel, David Slaughter, Sarah Coffman, Troy Palmer, and Eric Kurth.
Pledge of Allegiance
Prayer: Councilman Cale Magruder gave the invocation.
Minutes: Crum made a motion to approve the minutes from the March 2, 2015 Council meeting. Jones seconded the motion. Motion carried without opposition.
Ordinance 3: Malone made a motion to approve Ordinance 3 in the amount of $694,959.73. Lowery seconded the motion. Motion carried without opposition.
Sanitation Cash Flow Analysis and Commercial Rate Strategies: Staff gave a presentation pertaining to the Sanitation Fund cash flow analysis within the context of the proposed General Obligation issuance for new sanitation equipment and vehicles.
Staff gave a brief presentation of commercial rate options for recouping revenues from proposed adjustments to billing structure for multi-unit dwellings.
Malone made a motion to schedule a work session for March 30th at 7p.m. at City Hall to discuss Commercial Sanitation Rates and the purchase of new Sanitation equipment and vehicles. Jones seconded. Motion carried without opposition.
Proposed Trap-Neuter-Return/Release Program for Feral Cats: Discussion continued regarding the proposal for a Trap-Neuter-Return/Release program for feral cats for the City of Augusta. Shaw stated at the last meeting the Council directed staff to look at cost and talk to the Augusta Animal Clinic about doing a trial run Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) program. He stated staff spoke to them and they are willing to run a three month trial under the current contract but they are not interested in continuing the program beyond the trial and suggested partnering with the Humane Society or another non-profit organization to operate the program.
Shaw stated the other item the Council asked for clarification on was what ordinances would have to be amended or adjusted even for a trial program and the City Attorney reviewed those and has provided that information to the Council. Parker stated he reviewed a lot of case law and there weren’t any Kansas cases that were directly on point, but he was able to find two cases outside of Kansas that were most directly relevant to our situation. He stated there was one case from Ohio where the City of Akron had a program close to what we are considering and the court upheld the legalities of the removal program in the context of a TNR program. He stated there was another case out of the California Court of Appeals regarding potential liabilities, specifically a veterinarian that had released a cat that had not remained in his care long enough to determine if the cat was healthy enough to be released and they had an issue.
Jones provided an update to the Council on what has happened in the last week with the regard to the cats in the alley behind her business. She stated that all 11 cats were trapped, taken to Caring Hands Humane Society in Newton, were sterilized, vaccinated for rabies, ear clipped and relocated to a farm in Sedgwick County. Jones stated that of the 11 cats, 8 were pregnant females. She stated by using this program we have avoided 32 to 48 additional cats being born and the potential of 1,500 cats being born over the course of the life of those 11 cats. Jones stated there is a value to this program and it solves the problem of overpopulation of cats, which serial trapping and killing of cats has not done. She addressed concerns about people dumping cats in Augusta if we have a TNR program stating she has not found any City that has experienced that phenomenon. Jones stated that while driving around downtown today she noticed at least two other pregnant cats, so while she has taken care of the cats behind her building the issue isn’t solved and if we continue to do what we do today we will continue to have cats.
Tammey Stubbs, Vice President of Friends of Felines, addressed the Governing Body. Stubbs stated the aim of Friends of Felines is to reduce the population of feral cats. She stated that they are there and will always be there, due to human irresponsibility. She asked the Council to deal humanely with the problem and stated that trap and kill hasn’t been effective. Stubbs stated a TNR program is less burdensome on the tax payers, and that Friends of Felines is here and willing to help as volunteers as well as other organizations such as the Humane Society. Stubbs stated there is a lot of misinformation out there and they would be willing to address those questions the governing body might have. She stated there are a lot of organizations that endorse this method of TNR including ICMA which Augusta belongs to, the Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA, Best Friends Animal Society, Humane Society of Veterinarian Medical Association, Association of Shelter Veterinarians, American Humane Association, Cat Fancier’s Association, Pet Co. and Pet Smart Charities. She asked that the decision be tabled until the Governing Body looked at it fully and to not make a hasty decision. Stubbs stated that three months and two cats a week will make a difference, but not a big difference. She stated they recently finished up targeting a specific area in Wichita where they were able to get almost 50 cats over the weekend, and while they did return them to the area they will no longer be reproducing, saving the City money. She stated the issue isn’t about whether you like cats or not, but how you plan to deal with them. She stated you can continue to ignore them and they won’t go away, you can continue the ineffective, costly, unpopular and inhumane process of trapping and killing them, or Friends of Felines can help teach and institute a proven method to control the population. She encouraged the governing body to try this and give it a good three year run before changing their mind about its effectiveness.
Dr. Andrea Koegel, from Wichita, addressed the Governing Body. Dr. Koegel stated she has been a physician and surgeon for over 20 years and wanted to address the health issue because there has been a lot of misinformation. She stated she has taken an oath to do no harm and would not be supporting a TNR program if she thought feral cats posed a health risk in this community or other communities. Dr. Koegel stated she had a discussion with one of the State Epidemiologists not too long ago about the rabies issue in the State of Kansas and they sent her some very interesting information. She stated there were a total of 63 rabid animals in 2012, with the vast majority of those animals being skunks and bats. Dr. Koegel stated that of those there were only two rabid cats in the whole state of Kansas that had human contact. To give some perspective, she stated there were three rabid cows and four rabid horses that had contact with humans in 2012. Dr. Koegel stated there are many governments that have looked at TNR and have tried it because they have come to the conclusion that doing the same thing over and over and expecting something different is insanity and killing the cats obviously was not working for them. She stated the telling fact is that most of those governing bodies have continued to do TNR because they found that it has worked for them. She stated it is something the governing body should seriously consider.
Malone stated he was surprised ICMA was on board with this, especially since we are a member of that organization. He stated it was surprising given all of the conflicting email accounts of what decision we have to make.
Reavis stated he thinks the concept of a TNR program is okay. He stated he is in support of the T and N portion of the program, but releasing them back into the same area where they were picked up in is wrong. He stated he also doesn’t agree with feeding the colonies. He stated if they are truly feral cats that get a free dinner every night, over a period of time they will lose their desire to hunt which is a benefit to having them downtown. Reavis stated he is concerned that our local animal clinic is not willing to participate in this program. He stated if we could find a volunteer organization that would come in trap, neuter and release them somewhere else he would be in support of that. Reavis stated if he is a responsible cat owner and his neighbor calls Animal Control because his cat is in their yard, he has to go to the clinic to pick up his cat, pay a fee, make sure it is up to date on vaccinations and then take him home and control him. He stated if it is a stray cat we can trap him and release him into the same environment he came from. Reavis asked what incentive there is for citizens to take care of their cats in a responsible manner when we are going to release stray cats back in to the city.
Jones stated the animal clinic is not interested in doing this because it is not their business model. She stated there are other clinics in the Wichita area including the Kansas Humane Society and Newton Humane Society that have low cost spay and neutering, and would be appropriate to investigate when looking for another resource to do this program. Jones stated the reason the feral cats are returned to whence they came is because that is their home. She stated that is where they were born, where they live, and where they are comfortable. She stated it is a great risk to relocate cats. She stated the cats behind her business that were relocated will have to be secluded and locked up for at least four weeks until they are acclimated to their new surroundings or they will try to return to their home or become food for other predators. Jones stated the return also prevents the vacuum effect from taking over because over time there will be more cats that move into the alley where hers were removed. She stated they need shelter and a food source and whether she fed them or the guy down the street fed them didn’t make a difference. Jones stated the idea that feeding a cat makes it a bad hunter isn’t true. She stated a well fed cat is healthier and a better hunter and the fact is that we don’t have mice and rats in downtown Augusta. She stated they will also continue to prevent other cats from moving into that area.
Kevin Barnes, residing in the Andover area, addressed the governing body. Barnes stated he is a former board member of the Valley Center Animal League and that he is one of the people that go out and do the TNR. Barnes stated the benefit of returning them to their area is that it keeps other cats from moving in to that area. He stated if you do this to an entire community, eventually the feral cats will stop having kittens and you will also eliminate fighting males, marking males, and then attrition starts to take effect and you will have fewer and fewer cats in your community. Barnes stated he has helped over 150 people get 850 cats fixed. He stated they are spayed/neutered and vaccinated and not contributing to the rabies problem. He stated he gets referrals from the Humane Society and he currently has four appointments two days a week. He stated that between him and Friends of Felines they fixed over 750 cats on a voluntary basis without the cooperation of any city laws. Barnes stated if the City had an ordinance in town to support TNR the feral cat issue could disappear in a short period of time.
Reavis asked Barnes what they do with the cats that are released. Barnes stated they are returned to the caregiver and he follows up after six months to a year to see how the cats are doing and in most cases they don’t have any new cats and two or three have disappeared or died. He said if you can do that street by street or neighborhood by neighborhood eventually the feral cat population will go down. He stated there are large communities that have TNR programs such as Denver, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Miami, Corpus Christi, Las Vegas, and Chicago that are largely supported by volunteers like him. He stated in a lot of cases, the caregivers or those reporting the feral cats pay for it out of their own pocket. Barnes stated if the City would look at how much they are paying people to set the traps and paying a veterinarian to euthanize them and keeping the cats for a period of time to see if someone claims them prior to euthanizing them, those costs are much higher than a TNR program.
Barnes stated that Pet Smart charities has provided information in a webinar saying there is roughly one feral or free-roaming cat per every six persons across the country. Barnes stated if the cats that Jones had relocated had been returned here he would anticipate that there would be very few new cats coming into the area. Barnes commended Jones for having them taken care of. He stated the incentive is that you have a low cost program and require people to have their cats spayed or neutered by ordinance. He stated if you have an effective program you will see fewer and fewer cats.
Magruder stated that Barnes said if you TNR cats attrition will eventually wipe out the population, but asked how that’s different than trap and kill. Barnes stated trap and kill does not work, the cats never go away because of the vacuum effect. Magruder stated that basically what Barnes is stating that if you TNR there is no vacuum effect and no new cats will ever come in, but if we trap and euthanize then new cats will come in. Magruder stated he cannot see the difference. Barnes stated trap and kill has never worked because you are not preventing the cats from giving birth. He stated he works in the agriculture business and he sees this being done to try to prevent the use of pesticides through irradiating insects releasing them back out, but if they are unable to breed then you see fewer and fewer insects which reduces the amount of pesticides needed to be used. He stated these types of programs are being used for situations other than just cats.
Barnes stated he knows of a situation in El Dorado where they had over 100 cats in the park and a flood came through and killed cats, but a few years later they had another 100 cats there again, so killing them did not work. He stated if you fix all of the cats they will keep other cats from joining the community and the cats there cannot breed, he doesn’t know where the new cats would come from. He stated it has been proven that the vacuum effect of killing does not work. Barnes stated they will continue to be good hunters of rodents. He stated if communities around the Wichita area show some of the smaller communities that a TNR works, you can show that they are more cost effective than trapping and killing.
Reavis stated he still has a concern that we cannot do this without a partnership with a volunteer organization or grant money. He stated he does not feel it is a good use of tax payer dollars to trap these cats, take them to Wichita, pick up two days later and return to the same area where we picked them up. He stated he does not believe this is a function we should be involved in. Reavis stated he has had four downtown business owners contact him saying they do not want the cats downtown.
Jones agreed with Reavis that this cannot be done by the City. She stated that most communities that have had this be an effective program have partnered with or turned it over to a volunteer group that has formed a 501c3 organization. She stated that Carthage, Missouri has a 501c3 organization called Spare a Cat Rescue and they have partnered with City and applied for grant money to get their program going. Jones stated she is not proposing that the City trap them, take them to Wichita, and pick them up and bring them back. She stated it is about having the opportunity to develop a program and allowing people like her to partner with or form a volunteer group to start developing the program in Augusta.
Reavis made a motion to leave the animal control policies as is and at a future time if some organization wants to negotiate a TNR program with us, then they can submit their proposal and the governing body will consider it at that time. Magruder seconded the motion.
Sue Marczynski, who lives south of Udall, addressed the governing body. She stated she has a colony of 15 cats and she knows that TNR does reduce the numbers. She stated she too has issues with the idea that attrition completely wipes out every cat, because you will still have the irresponsible person who will have abandoned his cat. But you are reducing the numbers. She stated you will not find a group of cats where there is not a food source. Marczynski stated there could be volunteers out there that would love to be caretakers for a colony that the City doesn’t even know are out there. She stated the first generation of feral cats came from stray cats, and stray cats generate from irresponsible people who throw these living creatures out like they are trash. She said there are going to continue to be those kinds of people. She stated she prays that the governing body will try to address this as people who have compassion. She stated this was a problem created by people and asked that they don’t take it out on the cats. She said there are probably more volunteers out there than you think.
Magruder thanked all the guests that came and spoke on the issue. He said there is a point/counter point to all these issues. He cited a June 10, 2014 article about Brush City, Colorado resident that was bitten by a feral cat that was being fed and cared for in a colony and an October 14, 2014 article about Perry Sound, Indiana who implemented a four year TNR program and they are now in a mess because their cat population has increased. Magruder stated according to the University of Georgia and National Geographic one in three well-fed domesticated cats kill twice a week. He said PETA has said “Having witnessed the gruesome things that can happen to feral cats and the animals they prey on, PETA cannot in good conscious oppose euthanasia as a humane alternative to dealing with over-population.”
Magruder stated he wants to make it really clear that as a council member he is a very strong supporter of responsible pet owners who abide by the ordinances of the city and respect the rights of their neighbors. He stated a three month trial would service a maximum of 24 cats and would in no way constitute a scientific study with agreed upon measurable variables that would yield any credible data for us to base a decision on, so he would be opposed to that. Magruder stated he is not comfortable with the number of ordinances that would have to be changed as presented by the City Attorney to conduct such a study.
Magruder stated the notion that cats don’t kill birds or other wildlife doesn’t match the research that is there. He stated it doesn’t match the anecdotall evidence we are receiving from our citizens, including a resident in Ward 1 on State Street a couple weeks ago who volunteered to show me the dead rabbits in their back yard that the cats had killed, and other people near our city building who have volunteered to show the birds and animals that had been killed by the cats. Magruder stated the citizens of Ward 1 have made it abundantly clear to him that they don’t support TNR, they don’t want to live next to cat colonies, they don’t want to live next door to the repercussions of cat colonies and when they show up they want them removed and not brought back. He stated we have a responsibility as a Council to protect the property rights and values of our citizens. He stated it is not unreasonable to conclude that a cat that is fed on a routine basis that comes to the call of “kitty, kitty” will not be attracted to a young child that is doing the same thing bringing the possibility of injury and liability on our city.
Magruder stated he does not agree with the notion that a TNR program will be cost neutral is reasonable and the notion that you could sustain volunteers that long is reasonable. He referenced Ignite Augusta as an example of people losing interest over time in both volunteering and funding as the initial rush is gone. He stated it will not be cost neutral, especially if you consider our own one Animal Control Officer would have to put the time and effort into taking these animals to other places to get fixed for these clinical trials and private funding cannot be relied on as a revenue source.
Magruder stated a February 20, 2015 article published by KSN.com indicated there was a rabid skunk found in Wichita and stated that the rabid skunk was involved in an encounter with owned pets. He stated if cases of rabies are found that close in a population of wild animals, and it is known to exist here in Augusta at times, it is not unreasonable to assume that feral cats that are not kept indoors and are not protected by responsible owners could in fact be infected with rabies. Magruder stated a TNR program does not propose to vaccinate the cats every year and we have been told in order for the vaccinations to be effective they need to be continued yearly. He stated our own Chief of Police Tyler Brewer who isn’t here tonight gave me permission to say he does not support this program and his position was misrepresented at the February 2nd meeting.
Magruder stated he really believes with all his heart that it is the responsibility and right of every council member to present issues that they feel are important and will better our city, as Jones did on February 2nd. He stated we had two weeks to process that and to look at the information to consider the issue, do our own research, and to hear from our citizens. Magruder stated that at the February 17th meeting after doing research he came back and urged us not to spend any more time on the issue. He stated at the March 2nd meeting we heard from an outside source and decided to table it to this meeting. He stated we haven’t heard from any citizens of Augusta from the podium to this point. He stated the comments have been at least four to one of those that do not favor the program as far as he can tell from the citizens, based on anecdotal data. He said here we are 43 days later still discussing the same issue, so he stated one more time for the record that we have spent enough time on the issue and he urged the Council to continue to vote on this motion and not waste any more time.
Malone called the question. Motion to leave the animal control policies as is until there is a proposal from a sponsoring agency to carry out a TNR program carried with Jones voting in opposition. Shaw asked if two or three weeks from now there is a proposal from an organization on his desk, how is staff to proceed with presenting it to the Council. Childers stated that based on the vote, if there is a 501c3 organization that comes to the table providing funding and a mechanism to implement a TNR program that would be amenable to Council, staff should present that to the Council to take under advisement at that point. The Council agreed.
Jones asked if we will keep killing cats and keep penalizing people who care for cats, and if that is how this Council going to proceed. Childers stated that the opportunity has been presented for Jones to continue executing the plan she has to bring an organization to us. Jones stated she will do just that.
Proposal to Purchase Bucket Truck through NJPA Contract: Malone made a motion to approve the bid under the NJPA contract for a new 68’ bucket truck from Altec with a Freightliner chassis in the amount of $229,866, plus $19,308 sales tax, for a total purchase price not to exceed $249,174. Belt seconded the motion. Motion carried without opposition.
2015 Insurance Renewal: Malone made a motion accept the bid proposal from Madrigal & Welch for the renewal of the City’s 2015 Insurance policy in the amount of $350,431. Lowery seconded the motion. Motion carried without opposition.
Zoning 530 N School: Reavis made a motion to approve Ordinance 2076 changing the zoning classification at 530 N. School Street within the City of Augusta from Assembly District “A” to the Residential District “R” Division 1 and Amending the Official Zoning Map of the City of Augusta, Kansas. Jones seconded the motion. Roll Call: Reavis Yea; Jones Yea; Belt Yea; Magruder Yea; Lowery Yea; Crum Yea; Malone Yea. Motion carried without opposition.
Kansas Municipal Energy Agency (KMEA) Appointment: Lowery made a motion to approve the reappointment of Electric Production Superintendent Jim Sutton to serve as Director #1 representing the City of Augusta on the KMEA Board of Directors. Belt seconded the motion. Motion carried without opposition.
Matters From/For Council:
City Council/Mayor Candidate Forum: Reminder of the City Council/Mayor Candidate Forum scheduled for March 24, 2015 at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers.
Informational Memorandum and Final Comments:
Jones: Jones inquired about Shaw’s meeting with PEC to discuss engineering services. Shaw stated it was a sales call.
Jones stated she received a complaint from a neighbor about the taste of the city water and they asked where to send the bills for reimbursement of the bottled water they had to purchase.
Jones stated there is very little water pressure in the 1800 block of Meadowlake.
Jones stated a there was a man across the street from her residence with two green warning tickets on his vehicle and he said it took three officers to put the tickets on the car and he wasn’t aware of the problem. She was surprised no one tried to talk with him from code enforcement. Sims stated code enforcement deals with issues outside of the public right of way and that the Safety Department would handle issues in the public right of way. Reavis stated there was a medical call in the 1800 block of Meadowlake and that may be why there were three officers in the area.
Magruder: Magruder stated he received a call from someone about trash carts on the curb that have not been moved since implementation of the sanitation program. Shaw stated by ordinance the enforcement mechanism is through municipal court. He stated we have discussed including that in our code enforcement review, but that the Council hasn’t considered a new ordinance yet. Magruder asked if she would need to issue a formal complaint. Shaw stated we can enforce code compliance without an official complaint.
Magruder stated it was also asked if we could explore some temporary fencing around current recycle bins to help contain the material if blowing away. Shaw stated that is not our property, so we could not erect fencing without contacting the property owner.
Magruder stated he would like to consider changing the oath of office for the governing body to be the same that the Safety Officers take, saying the will support all ordinances, proclamations, and resolutions of the City of Augusta Kansas. Parker stated the oath that is taken by the governing body and law enforcement is different in accordance with State Statute requirements. Parker stated the City could potentially include a separate affirmation in addition to the oath. Magruder stated he would like to see us move forward with a separate affirmation. Consensus was not given.
Malone: Malone asked if staff has been able to find where the property owner of the old Wal-Mart has given us permission to put the recycling bins on the property. E. Jones stated she has not. Malone stated we should probably wait until we locate that agreement before putting up fencing.
Malone asked Jones if she would be taking care of the Adopt-A-Pot program. Jones stated she would. Jones asked if she should continue to work with the Chamber or start working with DAI as discussed previously since they specifically serve the downtown. Malone stated that with the DAI executive director leaving he would recommend continuing to work with the Chamber.
At 8:36 p.m. Lowery made a motion to go into executive session for 20 minutes under the personnel matters of non-elected personnel exception to the Kansas Open Meetings Act in order to conduct the City Manager’s annual evaluation. The governing body will reconvene in the Council Chambers at 8:56 p.m. Malone seconded the motion. Motion carried without opposition.
At 8:57 p.m. Malone made a motion to exit executive session with no action being taken. Lowery seconded the motion. Motion carried without opposition.
Adjourn: At 8:57 p.m. Malone made a motion to adjourn. Lowery seconded the motion. Motion carried without opposition.