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Buckeye Lake cat ordinance is back

BUCKEYE LAKE – A proposed Buckeye Lake Village cat ordinance seems to have nine lives.

An ordinance requiring cat owners to spay or neuter their felines was basically put to sleep after Buckeye Lake Village Council members believed such a law to be unenforceable. However, Buckeye Lake resident and animal protection activist Bonnie Mansfield, who first proposed the ordinance, disagrees and wants council to reconsider.

“I’m here to talk about the cats,” said Mansfield to council Monday night. “The village acknowledges there’s a problem.” She brought Newark Animal Control Manager Toby Wills to the meeting. He said he’s willing to enforce the ordinance if council approves it. “I’m open to help you guys out,” he said. “It is a major problem in getting these animals spayed or neutered.”

Mansfield said Buckeye Lake’s expanding cat population is becoming a health hazard and, if the ordinance passes, she said she’d find funding for people who can’t afford to spay or neuter their cats.

“When a few people have created a problem, hundreds of cats, for the rest of us, we need to make those few people get responsible,” said Mansfield Tuesday. She said a mandatory spay/neuter law wouldn’t affect those who are already responsible pet owners. “In fact, it would actually help us get some relief by not having to bear the financial cost of having someone else’s animal altered,” said Mansfield. She said she doesn’t want to keep working to get animals altered when the public breeds them faster than she can fix them. Mansfield said she’d work hard to find cheap or even free spays and neuters. “I just want the cats fixed,” she said. “It’s almost a crime to let unaltered cats run free because of the affect on the public. I want it to be a crime.”

Council President Charlene Hayden said she understood the cat ordinance would be legally unenforceable, but said the public safety committee should reconsider the ordinance and present its findings to council.

Tuesday, Mayor Rick Baker said both the village solicitor and the Licking County Prosecutor’s office told him a cat ordinance is unenforceable. He said, “We could pass it, but who determines who owns the cat?”

Mansfield said she believes the person feeding and tending to the cat is considered the rightful owner.

Wills said Newark does not currently require cat owners to spay or neuter their pets; they are only required to keep cats confined to their homes.

In a related issue, Mansfield said she can help transport dog or cats to a non-profit Columbus spay and neuter clinic called SOS of Ohio, which works directly with Central Ohio animal rescue groups. She said SOS of Ohio offers lower cost veterinary services.

In other village news:

• The police department is replacing its SUV cruiser. “It looks like there will be no cost to the village,” said council member Clay Carroll. He said the village is working with former council member Russ Cameron, who owns a used car sales business in Newark.

Baker said the police department sold several junk vehicles in impound, and is trading in a confiscated box truck and the department’s existing SUV cruiser to pay for the new one. He said Cameron is willing to take a loss if the village can’t quite afford an appropriate vehicle.

• Council members are considering requiring village employees to submit to random drug testing. Council member Donna Thompson said several medical centers, including Fairfield Medical Center, would agree to do the testing. Village Service Director Tim Matheny said the village must have a random drug testing policy in place before it can enact any legislation requiring employees to submit to testing.

• Baker said he heard Eric Mason, owner of the Grille on 21st Street and the Chop House in Newark, plans to have his proposed Buckeye Lake project, the Waterfront Grille, open on the North Bank by the end of 2011. Project designer Garry McAnally, president of Wachtel & McAnally Architects, was willing to be as specific. “There are a few more items that need to be put into place before construction can begin,” he said. “(Mason) and the others involved are working very hard to get this started, however, it does take a lot of time.”

• Hayden said the village has accomplished much during the last several years, despite criticism in local media about village projects including a sub par resurfacing of village streets following the installation of a public water distribution system. She recalled when the village was $400,000 in debt from past water studies. The village enacted a pre-assessment for five years to erase that debt before a public water system could be created.

Hayden said council members attended classes to prepare them for the job of creating a public water system. At one of the classes they met John Rauch, state field coordinator for the Ohio Rural Community Assistance Program, who helped the village get on track. She said engineers predicted monthly water bills would be close to $50, but a $5 million federal stimulus grant allowed rates to be much lower.

The village also secured grants for public sidewalks and installed curbs on portions of Hebron Road’s boulevard. “ With the exception of half a dozen places, the ( village streets) are better than they were,” said Hayden. “People look at the glass as half-empty. I’d forgotten all the things we’ve accomplished. We’ve made a difference.”

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