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City says 'no deal' to PAAWS' request

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news Fargo, 58102
West Fargo Pioneer
(701) 241-5487 customer support
Fargo North Dakota 101 5th Street North 58102

West Fargo City Commissioners voted unanimously Monday night to deny a request from Minn-Kota PAAWS to contribute to the cost of feline leukemia testing and vaccinations for untamed (feral) cats in the city.

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Carol Sawicki of PAAWS appeared before the commission Oct. 6, to ask that the city contribute $20 per cat, but after considerable discussion a motion to deny the requet died for a lack of a second and the matter was tabled for further review.

The $20 proposed would have gone for the cost of testing, spay-neutering and vaccination, before appropriate cats would be released back into the city. If a cat was found to be diseased they would be euthanized, with PAAWs covering the cost. The city presently pays $29.70 per cat for euthanization.

It was returning the feral cats back to openly populated areas that caused commission opposition even though doing so could have saved a little money.

City Commissioner Lou Bennett opened discussion by saying his "hand was pretty much tipped" against the request after visiting with the state epidemiologist who said he is not in favor of putting the feral cats back into the public domain.

City Commissioner Mike Thorstad said he had several problems with the concept including its inconsistency with city ordinance that says animals need to be licensed and cannot run at large and he was also concerned over potential litigation against the city in the event a cat attacked someone. "I could see a lawyer litigating against the city because we have allowed it to perpetuate," he said. "I don't want to take that possible risk."

Thorstad also said he didn't feel it is the city's responsibility to manage the population of animals on any kind of private property.

Sawicki said there are three choices for the cats, either adopt them out, put them back out on the street or euthanize them. She said she advocated the partnership to promote the spaying or neutering to curb the growing kitten numbers.

She said she spends about 25 hours a week as a volunteer. "This is something we are good at and we care about. Your police have something more important to do. We are not asking you to bend the rules, we'd like to have a partnership because there are cats out there."

Bennett made the motion to deny the request, with Thorstad providing the second. Mayor Rich Mattern and Commissioners Duane Hanson and Mark Simmons all voted to support the motion.

The commission also authorized the use of federal grant funds for a FEMA buyout project for the home of David and Diane Johnston at 418 Francis Street; as well as authorizing two appraisals for the site and in-kind work

to be performed by the city on the project.

City staff had prepared and submitted an application for grant funding under the Hazard Mitigation Grant program through FEMA.

The purpose of the grant was to have the property acquired and the house removed because of its instability due to slope failure in the adjacent river bank

The application was approved, with the share values 75 percent for federal, 17.5 state and 7.5 local. City staff had indicated in the application and to the Johnston's that in-kind work would be performed by the city public works department which could help lower the total cost of the project set at $260,804 for the federal/state share and $21,147 for the Johnston's.

Assistant City Engineer Dustin Scott appeared before the commission to explain the grant terms and to field any questions.

He said this was the first successful grant awarded by FEMA for the community and he said a couple of other properties have been identified for future grant application down the road.

Discussion also centered on perhaps relocating the house instead of demolishing it, with Commissioner Thorstad stating it would be a shame to see a good house destroyed when it could provide housing for someone. Scott said that possibility could be addressed.

In other action, the commission:

-approved a land use amended to allow for FM Ambulance to construct a 3,240 square foot facility on an almost 40,000 square foot lot in Lot 3, Block 1 of Burlington 6th Addition, located south of 19th Avenue East and east of 9th Street East. FM Ambulance officials hope to get the flatwork completed yet this fall so work can be completed on the interior this winter.

-approved several improvement districts, along with a sidewalk district, following public hearings at which no one voiced opposition, except Al and Mary Ann Vetter. Districts approved included: Water and Sewer Improvement Districts No. 1188, 1210 and 1216; Street Improvement District No. 2195; Storm Sewer Improvement District No. 4039; and Sidewalk District No. 6045. The Vetters voiced opposition for District Nol. 4039 questioning through correspondence how the work was going to benefit them;

-approved first reading of Ordinance No. 870 relating to establishment of a new city visitor's committee. With the West Fargo Area Chamber of Commerce no longer in existence, the change involved taking the wording out saying two Chamber members should serve on the committee, replacing it with four members serving who are residents of the city, instead of the two previous members, along with the one member of the city commission remaining the same

-okayed second reading of Ordinance No. 872 involving the rezoning of the Preserve 1st Addition from agricultural to mixed one and two family dwellings, one and two family dwellings, single family dwelling and public facilities, as well as approval of the land use amendment and final plat approval.

-approved a conditional use permit for a detached garage for Gary and Julie Hornbacher at 217 47th Ave. E. in McMahon Estates;

-approved the state audit as of Dec. 31, 2009 for the city of West Fargo, as well as the fraud prevention and capital asset policy for the city after hearing a highly favorable review from City Administrator Jim Brownlee.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the West Fargo City Commission will take place at 5:30 p.m., Monday, Nov. 1, in the commission chambers at West Fargo City Hall. All meetings are open to the public.

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