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City won't budge on snake ordinance

By a 3-1 vote, West Fargo City Commissioners said 'no' Monday night to a request from Robert Butts III for an ordinance change that would allow constrictor snakes as pets in the city of West Fargo.

The West Fargo ordinance under the "non-domestic animal" category, doesn't allow for "any poisonous, venomous, constricting, or inherently dangerous member of the reptile or amphibian families, including rattlesnakes, boa constrictors, pit vipers, crocodiles, or alligators."

Butts told commissioners that he has two pet snakes - a 4-foot King he has owned for two years and an 8-foot python he's had for six months. He said he feels they should be allowed because the present West Fargo ordinance has gray areas, noting that Fargo and Moorhead both do not have restrictions.

The topic was initially brought to light when Butts took one of his snakes to Elmwood Park for a walk during a softball game. People at the park became concerned, talked to Butts, and ultimately called the police department, who told him the snakes he owned were not allowed under the city ordinance.

It was also pointed out that the Pet Smart store in West Fargo sells the types of snakes that are not allowed. City Attorney Brian Neugebauer said they had been informed that they can't sell those types of snakes in their store.

Butts said he didn't see why the snakes were considered different than any other animal. When asked what his own neighbors thought, he said "they are more interested than anything."

City Commissioner Mike Thorstad asked Police Chief Arland Rasmussen if he was aware of any problems with snakes in the metro area. His response was only the night at the park and one at Cruise Night.

Commissioner Mark Simmons made the motion to deny the request with Commissioner Lou Bennett providing the second. Simmons, Bennett and Commissioner Duane Hanson voted yes, while Thorstad voted no. Mayor Rich Mattern was absent from the meeting.

In other action, the commission:

-reviewed at length information regarding traffic access and pedestrian linkages around the Westview 1st, Shadow Creek 3rd and Furnberg Additions as it pertains to the new middle school and high schools, with more details forthcoming on this matter;

-authorized a series of resolutions directing the city engineer to prepare and approve plans and specifications, and directing the auditor to advertise for bids as well as declaring work necessary for Sidewalk District No. 6050, which includes installing sidewalks through a few lots in Eagle Run 8th, 11th and 18th Additions, Eagle Run Plaza 1st Addition, Shadow Wood 6th Addition, and West Lake 1st Addition to result in a consistent pathway. Notices will go out to the affected areas and they will have 45 days to comply. They can either install their own sidewalks or opt for the city to do the work and be assessed;

-approved a third amendment to the Joint Powers Agreement for software costs for the New World Systems Software based on the number of computers used by cooperating entities at the Red River Regional Dispatch Center, Fargo. The agreement is between West Fargo and the jurisdictions of Fargo, Moorhead and Cass and Clay Counties. A new streamlined formula based on a cost-share will put West Fargo's fees at 11.42 percent, Clay County, 15.84 percent, Cass County 18.42 percent, Moorhead at 17.68 percent, and Fargo, the largest at 36.65 percent;

-approved second reading and final plat approval for Oak Ridge 2nd Addition, a subdivision and rezoning from agricultural to light commercial;

-awarded the contract for Sewer, Water, Storm and Street Improvement District No. 1240 in Oakridge 2nd Addition to Dakota Underground, Fargo, with their low bid of $383,951.77. The engineer's estimate was $371,000;

-approved a newly amended agreement with NDACo for the next generation 911 - the statewide wireless 911 network agreement - that will reduce the city's costs of the statewide total from 3.1 to 2.7 percent. The financial change would be moving from a portion (20 percent) of wireless fees only, to a small portion (15 percent) of all 911 fees (first $1 only) starting next January. The change would decrease West Fargo's annual contribution by $1,203 that year.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the West Fargo City Commission will take place Monday, Aug. 6, at 5:30 p. m. in the commission chambers at West Fargo City Hall, 800 4th Ave. E. with the second round of budget talks following. All meetings are open to the public.