In response to an earlier meeting at which Benton Health and Safety Commissioner Donald Storey raised concerns about dogs running wild in the city limits, Franklin County Animal Control Supervisor Thad Snell attended Monday's council meeting.
"People are blowing my phone up and giving the city a bad name," Storey said in introducing Snell. "I've talked to animal control, and they're doing all they can do. There's two officers for the whole county."
Snell explained the animal control office operates from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, although he and another officer remain on call 24/7.
"There's been some concern about how to reach us after 3 p.m. Contacting the police department is the best way to get in touch with us," Snell said. He said animal control officers will respond after hours for three reasons: for an injured animal; for any person bitten by an animal; or any police assistance.
Storey warned that residents will be ticketed if they violate the city's leash ordinance law.
"There's too many pit bulls running around and bad dogs and kids playing after school," he said. "It's getting ridiculous."
Snell further explained the leash law is for any domestic animal, which includes cats, pigs, chickens, etc., and once an animal leaves personal property not on a leash, it is an ordinance violation. He said a city officer wrote a ticket this past week and his office routinely cites violators, although he said like any law enforcement agency, each situation is different.
"I try to give people the benefit of the doubt the first time I go anywhere," Snell said. "After that, it's time to take care of business. Take from that what you will."
"These guys are stretched then. If any of us want to lobby anything, it's to lobby the county for more officers. They could use a half-a-dozen officers easily," Mayor Fred Kondritz said.
Snell said no animals have been euthanized during his six years at the facility. He said the department takes in about 1,500 animals annually. That number is at 1,200 so far this year.
In other business, the council accepted a bid from Diamond Equipment Co. for a new backhoe.
The company agreed to take a city trade-in of $35,000 toward the first year's payment. The remaining two years of the contract will result in annual payments of $18,450.
Several purchase orders were approved for the police and fire departments, as well as a pay order of $873,833 for the new sewer plant.
Owners of wet establishments in Benton will get their Monday through Friday hours of operation extended by two hours to 2 a.m. Friday, and Saturday closing hours will remain at 2 a.m.
An ordinance approving 30-minute parking only on the west side of South Main Street from the square to Church Street was approved; and a utilities ordinance increasing the disconnection fee to $100 also passed unanimously.