County to take on animal control duties
A thankful De Soto City Council found the Johnson County Sheriff's Department's offer to provide animal control services within the city too good to turn down.
Last month, Mayor David Anderson asked Councilman Emil Urbanek and City Administrator Gerald Cooper to study the city's animal control options. The move came after Cooper told the council the city was receiving numerous complaints about dogs at large.
Last Thursday, Cooper told the council that the sheriff's department could provide animal control services within the city. Better yet, Cooper said Major Walt Way indicated that the sheriff's department could provide animal control service with no additional cost to the city's annual law enforcement contract.
The city will be required to maintain an animal shelter under the contract, Cooper said.
The arrangement will make trained officers available to the city.
"We really didn't want city employees dealing with vicious animals," Cooper said. "Their animal control officer has the ability to operate a tranquilizer gun."
One catch to the agreement is that the sheriff's animal control patrols will be limited to daytime hours and that the department "really doesn't want to come out at night," Cooper said. Still, the city administrator predicted the new arrangement would modify the behavior of pet owners who routinely violate the city's lease laws.
"If a uniformed sheriff's officer shows up on that person's door, I think that will make a big difference," he said.
Urbanek and Cooper also reviewed the city's facility leash agreement with park and recreation director Jay Garvin in response to problem drinking during private parties at the community center.
An alcohol ban would be consistent with a city ordinance that prohibits alcoholic beverages on all city property, City Attorney Patrick Reavey said. The council waived the ban in the Community Center to accommodate special events, he said.
The city can't continue with the present policy, Urbanek said, because cleanup costs and damages from vandalism routinely exceed the security deposits the city requires, Urbanek said.
"We don't charge enough," he said. "We lose money if we have alcohol in this building.
"I asked about 20 people. Basically, everyone I talked to said we shouldn't have alcohol there."
The council agreed, and approved the ban 4-0 (Councilman Tim Maniez was absent).
In other action, the council agreed to increase its contribution to a utility-assistance program designed to assist low-income families.
Jodi Hitchcock, coordinator of the De Soto Multi-Service Center, and Nan Frank, director of the Johnson County Utility Assistance Program, told the council the program's funds were in danger of running out just as families start to see summer cooling bills.
"We're in a crisis situation at present," she said. "Through the years, the county has basically carried De Soto with its energy assistance requests. But with the energy crisis experienced this year and the increased demand from Johnson County residents for assistance, Johnson County funds will not last through the year and may be depleted by the end of summer."
De Soto and other Johnson County cities contribute to the program to assist local needs. Over the past six years, the county has provided more than $22,000 for utility assistance in De Soto. During that same time, the city contributed $1,600.
The city directly benefits from the program because they can be applied to city water bills, Hitchcock said. This year, the program has paid $1,141 in De Soto water bills.
The majority of those receiving assistance (28 of 45 households this year) are single mothers who are not receiving court-ordered child-support payments, Hitchcock said.
Other Johnson County cities are being asked to increase their contribution to the program, and the Johnson County Commission will be approached when it finishes its 2002 budget deliberations, she said.
After some discussion, the council agreed to contribute another $1,500 to the program this year. The increase puts the city's contribution in the same per capita range as Gardner.