Vicious animal ordinance approved on first reading -- Third attempt in decade to address the issue

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Light applause broke out Friday after Carroll County Quorum Court unanimously approved the first reading of a vicious animal ordinance.

The proposed county law is presently in its third form, having been modified extensively. Sponsored by Justice of the Peace Marshall Turner, of Holiday Island, it is also the third attempt in the past decade to get a law in place to protect citizens on the public rights of way from attacks by wandering animals.

No other proposed ordinance has made it past a first reading before the quorum court.

As before, the impetus behind the ordinance came from Holiday Island, but this time new JP Eva Reeve, one-time resource manager at Holiday Island Suburban Improvement District, got further involved in the crafting of the law to assure protection of the public and avoid victimization of animals.

The issue also became important to joggers in the rural Eureka Springs area.

JP Larry Swofford questioned the wording of a clause making it unlawful to keep a vicious animal which poses a threat to the public. Further language states that the ordinance shall not apply to an animal protecting an owner. Also, an animal cannot be determined to be vicious for merely causing damage or injury to a trespasser.

(Editor's note: A copy of the ordinance in its present form accompanies this story.)

Robert Valet, director of Good Shepherd Humane Society, said that he applauded the county for addressing the issue. He noted that he had met for up to three hours with Reeve and Turner, hashing out the provisions.

"I am confident this will get the job done," he said, indicating that he did not feel that fears raised about the legislation are justified in light of how the total ordinance reads.

"The next step is enforcement," he continued, saying he did not want to see animals being victimized. "I am confident that will not happen." he said.

"Justice of the Peace Larry Fry said "I think the fox and coon hunters can live with it.

Reeve quickly quipped, "Unless their coon dog bites me."

A motion to place the ordinance on its second reading failed, after Swofford objected, saying that as significant as the ordinance is, "folks need time to read it and jump on my head" before it becomes law.

The wording of the ordinance can be modified at subsequent readings.

JP Yvonne Herron asked that letters from Holly Winger and Patsy Miller, both of Eureka Springs, be attached to the ordinance. Robertson discouraged making the letters an official part of the ordinance, but said the letters could be included as supporting documentation when the final ordinance is filed.

While the county remains in a financial bind and a hiring freeze is in effect, the justices approved the "juggling" of funds by libraries in the county. Initially, libraries at Eureka Springs, Berryville and Green Forest sought salary increases for employees, but the request was withdrawn after learning the personnel committee did not feel it right to increase salaries when other county departments were under a freeze.

The main thrust of the amended budgets was to take funds for capital expenditures and transfer them to expense items. This was especially needed for the Eureka Springs Library, where the building is not owned by the county, but is in need of repair.

County Judge Ed Robertson outlined a new scheme for housing of various county offices, noting that the public defender's office was no bigger than the table the JPs were sitting at, and is costing $400 per month. "It's a small office, and they want us out," he said.

His "new scheme for housing" includes keeping the current prosecuting attorney's office, located in the Carroll Center, after Prosecutor Tony Rogers' staff moves to a new facility in the former Outlaw Western Wear building.

He recommends that the public defender be moved into that office, and, when money is available, the interior of the Carroll Center office could be reworked to accommodate juvenile probation and intake.

Meanwhile, the county is paying a combined $725 per month for rent on the public defender's office and three storage units. Current rent on the Carroll Center location is $843, while rent for the new prosecutor's office will be $750 per month.

Contents on storage units could be moved to the back portion of the Carroll Center facility, and Robertson recommended a longer contract be written on the facility.

After juvenile offices are moved, Robertson recommended moving election equipment into the old juvenile office.

Fred B. Pierson, of Holiday Island, was appointed to fill the unexpired term on the Western District Ambulance District Commission held by Ralph Kittleson, who resigned recently after turning 80 years old. About one year remains in that term.

Pierson has more than 32 years experience in the telecommunications industry, and retired in November 1999 as director of marketing in Ameritech. He primarily managed field sales operations and various marketing staff functions, supervising groups of 10 to 100 persons, and annual budgets of up t o several million dollars.

Robertson introduced Ken Drezinski, who replaces James Kelley as District 4 representative on the quorum court.

The county judge also introduced Ron Karimi, environmental health specialist with the Carroll County Health Unit. Karimi is initially involved with preparing the county for mosquito prevention in light of the West Nile Virus threat. He distributed various fact sheets on West Nile Virus to the JPs.

Karimi can be reached at the county health unit on Hailey Road in Berryville, telephone (870) 423-2923, or e-mail rkarimi@healthyarkansas.com

Robertson told the JPs that an intergovernmental agreement with Eureka Springs, to provide one full shift for 911 backup, has been finalized, and that the electronic connections to get the backup system linked with the county's system have been ordered.

Herron reported on the May 14 meeting of select JPs and Sheriff Chuck Medford, and made a motion to authorized Robertson to meet with Berryville, Green Forest and Eureka Springs to determine the status of payment for housing and medical care for city jail inmates, and formalize an agreement in writing.

JP Jim Wheeler also reported on the May 14 meeting, noting that the sheriff's office has already spent 44 percent of the year's budget. He acknowledged that if state and federal grants come in as expected, such would be "a light at the end of the tunnel."

Still, he said, "it looks like the county is getting to the point where the cost of doing business ---- crime and drug enforcement ---- the county cannot afford to do the job as it has to be done. Things need taking care of, and we can't afford it."

Sheriff Medford reported that he is short two dispatchers in his office, and, in light of the county-wide hiring freeze, asked for authority to replace them. Noting that the freeze, when instituted, provided for allowances for key positions essential to county operations, the justices approved the request unanimously.

In other business:

  • JP Turner reported that recent concerns about exotic Newcastle disease were unwarranted; and

  • The second readings of ordinances to create the office of Carroll County Civil Attorney, and to establish the Carroll County Historical Society as the lead agency in the design of a Carroll County Flag, were approved.

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