Council’s vote adds ‘teeth’ to noise ordinance ‘Cat ordinance’ discussed, delayed

Culver’s Town Council last week moved forward with several actions, though members opted to delay the much-discussed, so-called “cat ordinance.”
Following a public hearing, ordinance 2010-009 passed on third reading, altering and strengthening an existing law concerning noise problems, the source of much discussion and complaint from residents over recent months. Language in the ordinance specifying decibel levels or feet from a noise source were removed, according to Town Manager Michael Doss, who added language concerning warnings and citations was “cleaned up” as well.
The changes were intended to give local police more leeway and opportunity to cite individuals or establishments whose noise levels cause complaints from area residents. Council member Ginny Munroe said the Council left some specifics up to the investigating officer, though she said the ordinance states a given individual or establishment may be fined four times for noise-related offenses within a 24-hour period. The fine has also increased, said Council President Sally Ricciardi, from $15 or $20 to $100 per citation.
Audience member Janet Halling, who detailed her family’s frustrations with noise levels at an establishment in her neighborhood, thanked the Council for the change.
Also discussed in public hearing was ordinance 2010-010, intended to encourage responsible pet ownership and growing specifically from resident complaints about stray cats.
Audience member Mark Noll noted his family likes cats, but said in his neighborhood the animals intrude in other yards and leave droppings.
“We don’t want to take anything from anyone who needs companionship,” he added, “but anything that can be done (by the Council about the cat population) will be appreciated.”
Also in attendance was Culver veterinarian Georgette Samuelson, who said the proliferation of cats “will fade away over a period of time” if the animals are spayed and neutered. The proposed ordinance, approved on second but not third reading by the Council, penalizes residents for feeding or otherwise sheltering strays without taking full responsibility for their care. At the previous Council meeting, it was discussed that the ordinance could shift its focus to spaying and neutering stray cats.
Audience member Mark Damore, who said his wife Becky has worked for several years to spay, neuter, and find homes for Culver’s feral cats, said he intends to work towards a local fund to facilitate residents bringing the cats to Samuelson for a reduced-rate spaying or neutering.
“I was collecting $18,000 for fireworks in this town for one night,” said Damore. “I can’t take care of the animals?”
Another audience member noted she and Becky Damore have worked with a resident in her neighborhood of late and have so far spayed or neutered 10 cats. She said the resident caring for neighborhood strays has — along with others in the neighborhood — donated money towards the effort.
Halling suggested increasing education among Culver residents, many of whom she said may not realize the problems feral cats can cause and the importance of spaying and neutering.
“I would be interested in looking at what other municipalities are doing,” said Munroe. “We have to do something; I don’t know if this ordinance will solve a whole lot.”
Following the close of the public hearing, Munroe said Doss will look into trap-and-release programs for strays in other communities, and the Council voted unanimously to postpone passing the ordinance for the time being.
A third public hearing formalized additional appropriations of already-approved funds for an extension of Culver’s EMS garage, for which the town of Culver will contribute $10,000, and Union Township the same amount.
As Ricciardi explained, the project will add a bunk room with two bedrooms — one for male and one for female EMS members — for nights when overnight stays are necessary. EMS Director Chuck Dilts said the project is waiting for approval from the state and drawings from an architect volunteering his time. The Council approved the appropriations.
Culver Fire Chief Mike Grover told the Council his department received 30 portable, 800 MHz radios through a matching grant along with other county departments; equipment for the fire trucks is forthcoming, as is training to use the new equipment, said Grover.
The Council approved Grover’s request for 20 new fire helmets which include front LED lights and blue rear lights “very visible through smoke,” at $239 each plus $39 each for a name plate on each helmet.
Also approved was his request for a thermal imaging camera to replace the department’s existing camera, which is now more than 20 years old according to Grover. He praised the improved quality of the new camera and its zoom function, noting the old camera allowed pinpointing the location of a boat or person via heat sensing from halfway across Lake Maxinkuckee. The camera is priced at $11,268; Town Clerk Casey Howard said the department has the funds in its budget for the purchases.
Also Council-approved was the purchase of a police car for Culver’s department for 2011, as requested by Police Chief Wayne Bean. Bean said he plans to purchase a Dodge vehicle, which should have a higher resale value, has a better warranty, and fits in with the department’s other Dodge vehicles.
The Council also green-lighted Bean’s request for permission for Culver officers to take part in a grant-funded, county-wide Operation Pullover task force, which would allow off-duty officers to work out of town in conjunction with other county agencies to reduce the number of drunk drivers in Marshall County. Bean noted the hours would be sporadic rather than weekly, and added the town’s only cost would be in gasoline and vehicle maintenance. He said the project may bring extra officers to the Culver area for similar patrols during peak times here.
Doss, during his Town Manager’s report, requested and had approved an $1,831.10 bill for repair of Culver’s leaf vacuum truck. Council also approved extensions of additional time for part-time, seasonal help at Doss’ request. Repair of a sewer pump was approved at $6,028 as well.
Doss acknowledged Culver’s Lions Club, VFW Post, and Culver Storage for financial contributions towards the town’s recently-installed Christmas lights.
Town attorney Jim Clevenger told Council members he’s drafted an interlocal agreement between various entities planning to replace the outlet culvert at Lake Maxinkuckee’s west shore, noting the project will probably be held up until autumn of 2011. The project also is awaiting permit approval from the state of Indiana.
The Council scheduled a work session on employee salaries and executive session on a letter received from an employee, both for Nov. 30 at 4 p.m.