F'ville considers animal control contract with SPCA

By Reggie Ellis

At its Oct. 10 meeting, the Farmersville City Council will look at a resolution that would bring back animal control services to the city.

Interim City Manager Renee Miller said the resolution would form a contract with the Valley Oak SPCA for animal control services at a cost of $60,000-$80,000 per year. The contract would pay for an SPCA employee, equipment, fuel costs, injured animal fees, veterinary fees and vicious dog hearings. Miller estimated that contracting with the SPCA instead of hiring a city employee with full benefits would save the city about $20,000.

"The resolution would also create fines for owners who can't control their animals," Miller said. "It would give the laws a lot more bite."

Stray dogs have been a huge problem in the community over the last year. On Aug. 22, Postmaster Diana Waymire sent a letter to all residents on Rose Avenue that mail would no longer be delivered to houses on the street because of a dog that had chased and tried to attack letter carriers on several occasions. "While we regret having to inconvenience the entire neighborhood because of the thoughtlessness of a few individuals, it is necessary to protect the safety of our carriers. Every year thousands of letter carriers are injured because of dog bites and attacks. These are serious injuries and have frequently disabled carriers for weeks and even months," the letter read.

The letter gave residents three alternatives for retrieving their mail: obtain a P.O. Box at the post office, install a centrally located mail receptacle or remove the dog from the premises. The post office also offered to hold mail for 10 days until one of the above options was chosen. The dog's owner finally caged the animal after a visit from public works employee Jeff Dowlan, formerly of the SPCA. A few days later mail delivery resumed on Aug. 31. Miller said Dowlan also used his expertise to draft the resolution on his own time for the council to review.

While the contract with SPCA sounds like the perfect solution, Miller said none of it would be possible without the passage of Measure G, a utility tax measure on the Nov. 8 ballot. Measure G would enact a 4% utility tax on Farmersville residents to "restore and ensure essential government functions including animal control, police, fire, park facilities maintenance, and other general fund services continue in the future."

The City of Farmersville currently has no animal control officer, an understaffed police and fire department and can't afford an employee to maintain the city's parks. "We have a public works employee who mows all of the parks once a week. He doesn't even have time to mow the entire park, just the front," Miller said.

In order to improve its finances, the city put two measures on the November 2004 ballot. Measure U, a one-half cent sales tax increase to 7.25%, was approved by 63% of voters. The measure is estimated to bring the city a total of $200,000 from September of this year through September 2006. However, Measure U will only generate half of the money needed to pull Farmersville out of its deficit. The other, Measure V, a $6 utility tax increase, was narrowly defeated. Together the two measures would have provided Farmersville with about $400,000 annually. If passed by at least 50% of the voters, Measure G would bring in an estimated $200,000 per year.

"We will still have more needs than money, but we won't feel the pinch as much," Miller said.

The Farmersville City Council meets on the second and fourth Monday of each month. Meetings are held at 7 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall, located at 909 W. Visalia Road. The next meeting is on Oct. 10. For more information call 747-0458.

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