Council discusses dogs, paving projects during work sessions
by David Lazenby
Sep 10, 2011 | 2989 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jasper city officials discuss a proposed dog ordinance during a work session of the City Council held Thursday, the second of two conferences held to discuss city matters on Thursday.  Photo by: David Lazenby
Jasper city officials discuss a proposed dog ordinance during a work session of the City Council held Thursday, the second of two conferences held to discuss city matters on Thursday. Photo by: David Lazenby
During two work sessions held by the Jasper City Council Thursday, officials discussed two ways to fix city streets — repairing them in places and decreasing the number of dogs roaming them.

During the first conference, city officials discussed a plan to spend approximately $300,000 to pave city roads most in need of repair.

City Engineer Joe Matthews said paving will be paid for by the city’s gas tax funds, which by law can only be used for such infrastructure projects. Typic-ally, the city accumulates about $150,000 per year from these taxes.

Officials plan to combine the tax money from the current fiscal year and the upcoming fiscal year to pay for the paving and patching project.

“They’re going ahead and using the $150,000 they anticipate getting this coming (fiscal) year,” Matthews said.

Early next week city officials are expected to announce what roads will receive the upgrades.

For the most part, the funds are being split between the city’s five councilors and the mayor, so that the money will equally benefit Jasper’s five districts. Mayor Sonny Posey said Thursday he will divvy up his $50,000 share among the five districts, so that each district will get about $60,000 in road repairs.

However, Matthews said the split among the districts will not be completely equal since some districts have more roads and more need for repairs.

Matthews said the cost of paving will be $82.38 per ton of wearing surface material, which he said is a “good price.”

When the Council reconvened Thursday afternoon to discuss a proposed ordinance regarding the city’s leash law and suggested regulations for owners of dogs deemed as “vicious,” several citizens and city officials expressed concern about the matter.

Lisa Lockhart, a dog enthusiast who owns several pit bull terriers — dogs that are defined as “vicious dogs” in the proposed ordinance written by an ad hoc committee appointed by Posey — pointed out that under the proposal it would be illegal for her to take one of her pit bulls to the home of a friend who lives in Jasper.

The ordinance states that “a vicious dog shall only be allowed outside the property of the owner for emergencies, for necessary medical or health treatment or for transportation to a point (outside) the city limits of the City of Jasper.”

Officials also had a lengthy discussion about a provision that would only allow city households to have five dogs.

Councilor Gary Cowen pointed out that if a city resident’s dog has a litter of five puppies or more, they are not in compliance with the law.

“Then if (they) sell those puppies, I’ve double broken the law,” he added in regard to a proposal in the regulation aimed at banning residents from using their home to operated dog breeding facilities. During past discussions about the city’s dog laws, several residents alleged that a Jasper homeowner was using his property to breed and sell pit bull puppies.

City attorney Russ Robertson went over several provisions of the ordinance, including a requirement that dogs found unlawfully to be at large within the city limits of Jasper will not be released to owners unless they have received a rabies inoculation and have been spayed or neutered.

“There is a tremendous coincidence of not being spayed or neutered and attacking,” Robertson said. “If I read the statistics correctly, there is more coincidence of unspayed or un-neutered dogs attacking than any breed.”

Police Chief Connie Cooner Rowe said equal to the problem of dogs running loose in the city is where to put these animals when they are caught now that the Walker County Humane Society is no longer involved in housing dogs captured by Jasper Police Department officer John Tune.

“If we get into the business of collecting animals, stop there and tell me what I do with them,” she said. “I think we could fill every car up I’ve got with dogs every evening shift.”

Jasper Police Sgt. Tim Martin said he is looking into a United States Department of Agriculture grant for communities with fewer than 20,000 residents that “provides funding for essential community facilities” including private and public animal shelters.

“It could eliminate a lot of our problems,” he said.