During Monday night's City Commission meeting, the issue of free-roaming dogs and cats dominated most of the public discussion portion of the gathering. Residents along Broad Street, just north of the square, voiced numerous complaints about being overrun with a large number of feral cats, and many speakers from around the town voiced concern over dogs that ran free during the evening and early morning hours.
The City's current pet ordinance was adopted in 1979, and upon review by City Administrator Brian Bourdreaux and Animal Control Officer Barbie McGowan, it was found to have very little real enforcement power. Though the animal control officer can ticket offending owners for violations, many often allow her to simply pick up the dog, then never claim it.
The draft version of the new ordinance does contatin provisions for fining owners of offending pets; but, there was a great deal of discussion on just how identification could be guaranteed for ownership purposes.
The public discussion carried over into the meeting, with many of the neighbors voicing conflicting versions of pet problems, and differing opinions of how to resolve the problems. The Commission will continue to work on the ordinance and present those changes at a future meeting.
Another emotionally charged issue for the Commission involved the City swimming pool. The City of Mason had budgeted $15,000 for repairs to the pool; but, an initial inspection by Joe York of Aquatic Commercial Solutions, Inc. of San Antonio noted that the most basic of repairs would cost at least $30,000.
Mayor Brent Hinckley reminded the Commission that during the last fiscal year, operating the pool had cost every resident of the city $10 since the pool operates at a loss. He noted that the cost of repairs at the pool would be in addition to that loss.
Several speakers, including Commissioners Beaty, Vacek and Velez, noted that the pool is an important part of the community. They questioned Mr. York about the ability to pay out the cost of repairs, and Mr. York acknowledged that his company could arrange for splitting up the payments for the repairs.
The Commission finally voted 3-1 to approve repairs totalling around $39,000, with Mayor Hinckley being the dissenting vote. Mayor Hinckley reminded the Commission that the City did have CDs for infrastructure repairs, and that was where the funds would have to be drawn from to cover this expense.
In other business, the Commission voted to hold a special election on May 9th, in conjunction with the regular election, to fill the unexpired term of District 1 Commissioner Eloise Burges whose resignation was effective on March 1st. They also voted to hold a joint election with the Mason I.S.D. Board of Trustees, with all voting on May 9th to be held at the City office. Early voting in both elections will be held at their own locations. The County will also have an election concerning a sales tax increase on that same day; but, voting will be held at the courthouse for that issue.
City Commissioner Anna Velez also asked the Commission to consider limiting the number of times someone can rent the Community Building during a set period of time. She explained that one person was reserving the Community Building, once or twice per month, for a business function (dance), and that other residents had complained that they were unable to get the building when they wanted due to these reservations.
Commissioner William Beaty pointed out that, though it might be inconvenient for some, the city was receiving revenue on a regular basis due to these reservations. The City administrative staff will investigate the matter and report back at a later meeting.
The City meeting adjourned at 7:48 p.m.