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By Dan Rudy 

Animal control ordinance sent back to committee

 


At the public hearing preceding Tuesday’s regular Wrangell Borough Assembly meeting, a few people showed up to listen but only one took to the lectern with her concerns with ordinance number 887, which would amend the municipal code dealing with animal violations and add a new chapter. The proposed ordinance was one of five being considered on their second reading.

“The first thing that I have noticed is a series of fines,” Christina Florschutz told the Assembly, looking at the meeting packet.

“I’m fine with having fines,” she said, adding that she wondered if there should be a warning for first offenses rather than a fine.

She suggested other changes as well to the ordinance’s language, such as the addition of a “hobbyist” category to animals rather than simply personal or commercial. Further, Florschutz thought a dog park might be an idea to consider in the near future, offsetting the effect tighter leash regulations might have on local dogs’ social needs.

“It will help them to be happier,” she said.

Assembly members were receptive to these suggested changes and the dog park idea.

“I do like the idea of a dog park,” Daniel Blake commented. It was his hope that it would be taken up as a project.

The Assembly was less receptive to other ideas.

In particular, Florschutz recommended that the board include a three-strike type of policy for disruptive dogs that would allow police to put down an animal that demonstrated itself to be a menace to property and public safety.

“I’m not sure how well you could make that fly,” Police Chief Doug McCloskey advised the Assembly.

He felt the ordinance as it was currently proposed clarified officers’ responsibility when dealing with reported animal problems while at the same time allowing police an acceptable amount of discretion.

“The reality is we’re most likely not going to be enforcing this to the letter of the law,” Assembly member Julie Decker reasoned. The code revisions would establish the borough’s position on animal control within its business district, but enforcement would generally be complaint-driven.

“I recommend that we defer this (proposed ordinance) since there would be major changes,” offered Mayor David Jack.

Blake moved to send the ordinance back to committee for revision, to which the Assembly unanimously agreed.

“I think it’s only fair to send it back and have them look at our changes,” said Assembly member Mark Mitchell.

At the meeting, the Assembly also voted to adopt a resolution supporting the Alaska Maritime Workforce Development Plan.

“This has been an effort statewide for two and a half, maybe three years,” Decker explained. “This is a big project.”

The plan is being devised by researchers at the University of Alaska in cooperation with state agencies and industry groups. Its aim is to provide a strategy for developing Alaskan maritime industries from fishing and recreation to transportation and related services.

It would serve to coordinate efforts across the state to improve workforce readiness through better training and skills development and promote sustained industry engagement.

Decker said the Wrangell Chamber of Commerce is already supporting the plan, and Southeast Conference will be considering it. A copy of the development plan in its entirety can be found online at http://www.alaska.edu/fsmi/.

Borough Manager Jeff Jabusch reported to the assembly that Washington D.C.-based consultant Sebastian O’Kelly visited Wrangell last week. He will draft a letter for the borough making plain its concern with Canadian open-pit mining developments upstream of the Stikine and other rivers.

Transboundary mining has become a hot topic in southeast Alaska of late as a series of open pit mines are being built or planned along the Stikine, Taku and Unuk watersheds, which may pose significant ecological concerns to the region.

These mines include Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell, Red Chris, Schaft Creek, Galore Creek and the already operational Tulsequah Chief mine. The issue is factoring prominently in the Southeast Environmental Conference currently meeting in Juneau and may be discussed at next week’s Southeast Conference being hosted in Wrangell.

“We’ll hopefully have that letter later this week,” Jabusch said. Because it has already been active in taking up the mining issue with the state and federal government, Decker recommended Jabusch include Wrangell Cooperative Association in the letter’s review as well.

Another letter was sent to the United States Army Corps of Engineers that Jabusch said will formally invite the Corps to examine the breakwater at Shoemaker Bay. At the moment, it currently does not offer adequate protection from swells and storms and needs an extension.

“It goes into a competitive look-see,” he explained, with the Corps determining whether the issue ought to be taken up by them as a project and when.

“At least it’s in the process,” Jabusch said.

Union negotiations with International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers over borough employees’ contracts has reached a crossroads. After three sets of meetings, Jabusch said “we’re at the point where we agree we don’t agree anymore.”

The contracts of the city’s electrical, harbor and public works departments expired last June. The borough will consult its attorney about possible next steps toward reaching a settlement.

The Assembly’s next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 23 at 7 p.m. at City Hall’s chambers.

 

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