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City Council appoints committee to study dog barking complaints


Special to the Pioneer Journal

Several citizens attended the coun-cil meeting on Oct. 7 to air their con-cerns about the noise made by barking dogs at the Wadena County Humane Society (WCHS) building at 310 Ash Avenue, in Wadena.

Two representatives from the Hu-mane Society also attended.

Mayor Wayne Wolden and Coun-cil Member Toby Pierce asked ques-tions and gave opinions about the situation.

Susan Stoddard, President of the WCHS, and Caroline Hartman, shelter manager, told the council about the measures they have taken to reduce the barking problem. They have rear-ranged the dogs, placing the small, nervous dogs in an area separate from the more laid-back dogs, and with less visual exposure to the door where visi-tors enter. They have also closed all the windows, so that the noise of bark-ing is more contained within the WCHS building.

“Rearranging the dogs has helped considerably,” Hartman said.

Two neighbors voiced complaints about the shelter. Both said that the measures taken by the shelter had not reduced the noise.

“Far as I’m concerned, it hasn’t changed at all,” one man said.

A third neighbor said that he could hear the barking, but that it took place only at brief times in the morning at feeding time, and again in the after-noon.

“It’s not that annoying,” he said.

The aggrieved neighbors com-plained to the board that the city’s noise ordinance was not being en-forced against the shelter because, they believed, the shelter was a com-mercial business and not subject to the noise ordinance.

City Administrator Brad Swenson suggested that a committee be formed to study the ordinance and see if any-thing could be done.

Mayor Wolden said he wanted the parties to sit down together and talk. He asked whether the complainants had attended the WCHS board meet-ing to discuss their concerns. The neighbors said that they had not gone to the meeting.

Mayor Wolden asked for volun-teers to serve on the committee. Council members Gillette Kempf and Toby Pierce agreed to serve, along with the city attorney and interim po-lice chief. The committee will meet privately first, and then ask a repre-sentative from the shelter and one from the neighbors to attend the next committee meeting.

Stoddard said, “I want to point out that only two people are complaining about this. It’s not the whole neigh-borhood.”

Hartman said, “Anyone on this committee should visit the shelter and see the conditions we work in.”

The WCHS has appeared before the county board several times during the last two years to request additional funding to improve the shelter building and upgrade the care the animals receive. In 2013, the county raised its level of funding in response to the re-quests.

In other business, the city council:

• amended the Tax Increment Funding (TIF) policy on tax abatement to change the language used to describe the money collected from applicants, from “fee” to “deposit”.

• approved the job description and pay schedule drafted for the position of Wellness Center Manager, and ap-proved advertising for the position. The council hopes to hire someone by the end of December.

• approved repairs for the Black’s Grove log cabin to be performed by Bill Higgs for repair of the floor for $2,250, and perform other minor re-pairs at $20 per hour.

• discussed a proposal for signage directing vehicle drivers to yield to school buses at Community Drive and 5th Street in Wadena during bus pickup times in the afternoon on school days. The council, staff, and acting police chief could not agree about what should be done, and took no action.

• approved the hiring of a police of-ficer. The officer is undergoing routine physical examinations and tests, and if the tests are satisfactory, the officer will give two weeks’ notice to the present employer and join the Wadena Police Department later in October.

• set the date for a special assess-ment public hearing on Nov. 12. Dur-ing this hearing, people who have had special assessments levied against their property are encouraged to come before the council to ask questions and air concerns.

• set the date for an enterprise funds 2014 budget review on Oct. 29.

• set the date for a City Council Special Meeting to open bids for a new electric substation at 12 noon on Oct. 21.

• opened the floor to the public to hear input from citizens.

Brian Hagen, who owns property at 1502 Reini Drive, asked the board to explain why his property was declared a public nuisance and cleaned up by the city, when he was already in the process of cleaning it up himself. Ha-gen and Interim Police Chief Naomi Plautz were not successful in com-municating with one another, Plautz said, and she gave the order for city workers to complete the cleanup of Hagen’s property. Mayor Wolden in-vited Hagen to attend the special sssessment public hearing on Nov. 12.