People who let their animals run loose in Finney County will get to operate as usual after the county commission decided Monday to postpone making changes to the county’s animal control resolution to allow more thought to be put into the plan.
At its last meeting the commission voted to draft a resolution to amend animal control regulations to increase fines for allowing dogs to run loose, and to include more specific language to define an at-large dog to mean an animal not being restrained at the owner’s property and those on a tether within reach of a road or public thoroughfare.
“We’re back to the same problem we’ve always had,” Commissioner Roman Halbur, who originally proposed the changes, said. “We don’t have a dog problem, we have an owner problem.”
Halbur said he’s raised livestock for more than 40 years and each year has had not less than $1,000 in damage caused by at-large dogs.
“I’m gonna be off this commission so all that’s gonna lead me to do, if you don’t do anything with this, you know what I’m gonna do. And that’s not correct for the dogs. I’m trying to protect dogs and children in the county so they’re taken care of correctly and properly. That’s why I brought this thing up,” Halbur said.
Several concerns were raised about the proposed changes.
Commissioner Duane Drees said the resolution as written would eliminate the usefulness of fenceless control systems, which use underground wires and a radio collar to keep dogs within an owner’s yard without the need for a fence, something people who have spent a lot of money installing won’t like.
“Roman doesn’t think they work, but I know a lot of people who say they do,” Drees said.
Halbur said he tried one of those electric fenceless fences, and it didn’t work. The other issue for Halbur is a concern for safety, especially for kids who may walk by a yard where a “mean” dog is located. He indicated a lack of confidence in an underground wire being able to contain dogs in those situations.
“A little kid could walk right up to that dog. That’s part of the reason I brought this up. It’s always better to have something between the child and that dog,” he said. “A neighbor of mine has three dogs and one of these fences and they’ve been in my cattle quite a lot the last year.”
County resident Wiley Wesley, whose wife, Karen, happens to be the county’s animal control officer, said the resolution shouldn’t make a distinction that applies only to those with less than 40 acres of land.
The commission’s proposal was written to not affect land owners with more than 40 acres of land. The rationale for the distinction was dogs running around on a large farm out near Kalvesta, for example, probably wouldn’t be causing problems for neighbors.
Wesley said he understood the county’s reasoning, but strongly disagreed that there would never be a problem with a dog straying from a 40-acre parcel. He said the resolution discriminates against people who have less than 40 acres, like himself, and noted that he has a neighbor with 40 acres of land whose animals often stray onto his property.
“No one should be exempt. The only difference between somebody that owns 40 acres, one lot, 10 acres or nine acres, is money. If I could buy 40 acres I would. That is nothing but class warfare,” Wesley said.
Animal control regulations should apply to all citizens, Wesley said. If a problem exists in specific areas, such as the rural subdivisions near city limits, then the resolution should be written to address those areas.
After discussion, the commission voted 4-1, with Halbur voting no, to table the resolution until a non-specified later time.
Commissioner Cliff Mayo said more thought needs to be put into the resolution, given some of the issues raised on Monday.
“I don’t have anything against this at all … but I do think there are some things we need to look at, some things that were brought up,” he said. “We really need to do something on this thing, but if we’re not ready, if it’s not in the proper form right at this point, the best thing to do is table it until it is.”
Halbur, who along with Mayo will be leaving the commission in early January, said he has successfully sued dog owners whose dogs have gotten into his livestock and caused problems. He said the county commission shouldn’t ignore the problem because it is a liability concern, and suggested he might not be above suing the county himself once he is no longer on the commission.
“Look up the regulations, what’s in there. You have a responsibility to the livestock owners in this county to protect their stock. You can get sued for not doing that,” Halbur said.
In other business Monday:
• Commissioners accepted a proposal from Wichita State University’s Center for Community Support and Research to conduct a co-location study intended to help Youth Services, Community Corrections and Court Services agencies work together in an environment of collaboration, efficiency and a structured facility after the planned move into a correction services building.
The study will begin next year and take about a year to complete. The commission voted 4-1, with Dave Jones voting no, to pay WSU $16,925 for the study. WSU’s proposal had the lowest cost of three received. The study will be paid for using sales tax revenues.
The building project is anticipated to start sometime in 2015, and is expected to begin operations in May 2016.
Commissioner Dave Jones questioned spending money on a study instead of putting the funds toward building project needs.
County Administrator Randy Partington felt the savings realized by using a construction management process during construction could easily cover the study’s cost.
• Commissioners voted to terminate a seldom-used information technologies cooperative agreement. Finney County, St. Catherine Hospital, Garden City Community College, USD 457 and Garden City entered into an inter-local agreement in 1997 to create the Garden City Information Technologies Cooperative. Since then, the hospital dropped out and the cooperative has been relatively inactive for several years. The cooperative has a cash balance of $76,362. Those funds will be evenly split between the remaining four organizations after a final audit.
• Commissioners approved an amendment to signs and outdoor advertising regulations that lowers the dwell time on electronic message boards from 15 seconds to eight seconds, which is in line with the state’s rules on how quickly an electronic message can change.
• Commissioners approved year-end transfers in the public works department, including transferring $200,000 from Road & Bridge into the Special Highway Machinery and Equipment fund, leaving an estimated balance of $512,510 in the road and bridge budget and a fund balance of $976,317.
At the end of each year, the county transfers funds from operating budgets to reserve funds.
Commissioners also approved transferring a total of $154,500 from other departments, including $67,000 from the general fund to economic development incentives fund; $2,500 from Youth Services to capital improvements; and $85,000 from EMS to capital improvements for ambulance and vehicle equipment.
• Commissioners reappointed Barrett Patel, PJ Patel and Robin Bergkamp to the Finney County Convention and Visitors Bureau board, and appointed Elijah McCall, general manager of Town Place Suites, and Sam Valenzuela, general manager of the Garden City Comfort Inn, to the board.
Commissioners also appointed Warren Schwab and Richard dela Rosa to the Finney County Committee on Aging board of directors.