City of Marion to spread the word on cat program

MIKE CONLEY/MCDOWELL NEWS

On Tuesday, Susan Menard with the Mercy Fund Animal Rescue and numerous animal welfare advocates filled the City Hall to ask that Marion’s ordinance be changed to include more of the Trap, Neuter, Release program. They want the city to stop trapping and removing feral cats, in response to resident complaints, and sending the felines to the county Animal Shelter. Menard also asked for police officers or other city officials provide residents with information cards about TNR. This was approved by the City Council. Menard brought coffee grounds, fencing and other measures that can keep feral cats away from someone’s property.

After hearing from animal welfare advocates, the Marion City Council agreed Tuesday to allow police officers to carry information about a program that involves trapping feral cats, having them neutered and returned back to their homes.

This information would be distributed to residents in Marion who complain about feral felines running around in their neighborhoods. But the council did not take action Tuesday about changing the city’s ordinance regarding the trapping of feral cats and sending them to the county Animal Shelter. This will likely be considered at a future meeting.

Last month, Susan Menard with the Mercy Fund Animal Rescue spoke to council about the city trapping cats on Kathy Street due to the complaints of a person living there. These cats are reportedly being taken to the animal shelter. At the June 18 meeting, Menard asked the city officials to stop having the cats trapped and euthanized. Instead, she asked that the Mercy Fund be allowed to do its Trap, Neuter and Return or TNR program in this case.

Through TNR, Mercy Fund volunteers set up cages to catch feral felines. These cats are then taken to a veterinarian and are spayed or neutered so they can’t reproduce and are also vaccinated for rabies. They are later released back into their original homes in the outdoors where they are fed and given shelter by a caregiver. Menard said last month the TNR method has been proven to reduce the number of feral cats running through neighborhoods.

Last year, the City Council authorized the use of TNR programs on properties in Marion but it is where the property owners give their consent. Based on an ordinance dating back to at least 1986, the city has also taken cages to properties in Marion, at the request of a property owner, to catch animals that are at large. When this happens, the city takes any animals that are caught to the county Animal Shelter. So the situation depends on the property owner.

Last month, Menard and animal welfare advocates asked that the city consider changing their ordinance and allow them to do the TNR program in this case on Kathy Street. City officials did not take action on the request at the June 18 meeting but said it would be back on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting.

On Tuesday, Menard and numerous animal welfare advocates filled the City Hall to revisit this issue and ask that the ordinance be changed to include more of the TNR program. They want the city to stop trapping and removing feral cats in response to resident complaints. Menard also asked for police officers or other city officials provide residents with information about TNR.

“When there is a complaint, we want the city to hand out information about TNR,” she said to the council.

As for the situation on Kathy Street, the local chapter of Brother Wolf has committed to taking six of the cats there. Menard also provided information from County Public Service Director Terry DePoyster about the McDowell County Animal Shelter and how it handles feral cats. The local shelter has nine cat cages and can only house 19 cats at a time.

After hearing from Menard, city officials said they would support having officers or other city authorities distribute cards with information about TNR.

“I think we would want very much your advice and input,” said Mayor Steve Little. “We will approve this card.”

As for changing the ordinance, city officials will consider it at a later date but no timeline has been set for the review. “The City Council did think that helping Mercy Animal Rescue and Brother Wolf to publicize the availability of the TNR program locally was a good step to take,” said City Manager Bob Boyette.

“It’s not going to go away,” said Little to the animal welfare advocates. “We just can’t turn our head. But this is a good start.”

The council’s action to approve the cards was met with applause from the audience at City Hall.

“I’m happy that they adopted our TNR informational card,” said Menard on Wednesday. “That will mean that the officers who deal first-hand with cat complaints will be able to provide information about TNR services. Then the rescue groups can step in, do TNR and save some cats from entering the county shelter.

“I hope they will adopt the ordinance revision as we requested in writing. I understand this step will take longer for the council to come to a consensus and I’m sure the revision will need to be checked by the city attorney. I’m hopeful they’ll adopt the revisions by the next council meeting.”

In other business, the City Council approved the application with the state Local Government Commission regarding the financing for the repairs at the Community Building Park. Marion will seek approval from the state LGC about the financing for this project. As required, a public hearing will be held by the City Council in August so it can move forward.

In addition, city of Marion officials took action to allow for more long-term parking in a busy section of the downtown. The City Council agreed to changes for the parking on West Court Street and Brown Drive. The north side of West Court Street, between Main and Logan streets, had previously been designated as a two-hour parking zone. The change approved by the City Council on Tuesday now designates about two-thirds of the distance of the north side of West Court Street in the block from Main toward Logan as two-hour parking, with the last four parking spaces closest to Logan Street not being time restricted.

Also, areas along the south side of Brown Drive in front of the bay doors at the old City Hall building (now Freedom Life Ministries) were changed to allow for parking, with no time restrictions. This area had previously been designated as a no-parking zone. The intent of these changes was to open up more areas for longer term parking, said Boyette.

In other business, the Marion City Council:

• Was introduced to two new employees: Landdis Hollifield as the new executive assistant/public information officer and Niki Kinman as a new officer with the Police Department.

• Approved the 2018-2019 fiscal year property tax settlement. This past year, the rate of property tax collection was 99.01%, said Assistant City Manager/Finance Director Julie Scherer. Council also approved the order of collection for the 2019 property taxes.

• Adopted a resolution accepting the Governor’s Highway Safety Program grant.

• Approved a solid waste ordinance. Boyette said the city has had problems with people rummaging through trash containers or “Dumpster diving.”

• Approved the closing of Clark Street in East Marion for the Tabernacle Community Garden party scheduled for Saturday, July 27.

• Approved the resurfacing contract with Tri City Paving of Rutherfordton. This company submitted the low bid of $113,418 to do the paving work.

• Authorized an easement across the water treatment plant property for Dominion Energy. City officials said the easement will have proper separation between natural gas lines and water lines at the site on Old Greenlee Road.

• Heard a report from Boyette about the need for a new backup generator at the Corpening Creek sewer treatment plant. The cost of a new generator could be in the low six figures but it has to be purchased, he said. A special meeting may be held in August in order to take action on this matter.

• Heard from Public Works Director Brant Sikes about the upcoming painting of the downtown crosswalks, some of which will take place this week.

• Adjourned the meeting in memory of the late Jim Hensley, Tammy Comer and Diane Satterfield.

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