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Council supports plan to tame cat, dog problem

Too many unwanted cats and dogs are causing problems in Alexandria and Douglas County.

The number of animals impounded and euthanized costs local governments and the Lakes Area Humane Society a lot of money.

The solution: An ongoing program to spay and neuter animals.

Christen Klimek, director of the Lakes Area Humane Society (LAHS), addressed the problem at an Alexandria City Council meeting Monday night.

She said that LAHS currently offers low-cost spay assistance with money from the Frances Curran Foundation.

Since the program started in August 2006, more than 2,100 Douglas County pet owners have received money to help pay for their female cats and dogs to be spayed.

The program reduces the huge numbers of unwanted animal births, reduces euthanasia rates, lowers costs of animal control services and ultimately saves taxpayers' money, Klimek said.

Funding for the program, however, is expected to end this year, Klimek said. That's why the LAHS is turning to the county for help and is seeking support from LaGrand Township, Alexandria Township and the city of Alexandria.

The county used to contribute $8,000 toward the program but it's not paying anything now.

Last year, Alexandria paid $40,338 in animal impound costs; LaGrand Township paid $23,582; and Alexandria Township paid $27,797.

That totals $91,717. The LAHS, said Klimek, plans to coordinate efforts with the city and the townships of Alexandria and LaGrand to ask the county to match that $91,000 for the next five years. She noted that the program has been effective in Grant County.

Another option is for the county to at least implement a $1 per capita commitment toward the spay/neuter program. This would generate about $38,000 per year and the money would go directly to county residents to reduce the costs of spaying and neutering.

Otter Tail County has had success with its per capita program, Klimek said.

The problem of unwanted cats and dogs can get out of control quickly, Klimek said.

One unspayed female cat, her mate and their offspring can produce 376 animals in three years, she explained. The number explodes to 11,801 after five years and to more than 420,000 in seven years.

Likewise, an unspayed female dog, her mate and their offspring can produce 67,000 animals in six years.

Klimek added that it's not just an animal welfare issue; it's a public safety issue. An estimated 4.7 million people in the U.S. are bitten by dogs every year. Dogs that are not spayed or neutered are three times more likely to bite, she said.

Louis Ross, an Alexandria Township Board member, supports the LAHS efforts. He told the council that bringing the animal population under control requires a proactive, not a reactive, approach.

Ross said that Alexandria Township spends more money on animal control right now than on senior programs or parks. Those costs will only climb if dogs and cats aren't spayed or neutered, he said.

The council voted 5-0 to support the LAHS' efforts to obtain funding from the county for a spay/neuter program.

In other action, the council:

--Called for a moment of silence to open the meeting in honor of Jim Casper, an Alexandria Township board member who also served eight years on the city/township joint planning board.

Casper, 80, died Saturday after battling cancer. Mayor Dan Ness praised Casper's dedication to the community and his long-range planning for the future.

--Approved a second and final reading to establish a Cultural Inclusiveness Committee.

According to the resolution, the committee of five to seven members appointed by the council will serve as an advisory body to the council in "matters intended to develop and implement inclusive policies, programs and practices to foster a community which is welcoming, vibrant and inclusive of diversity."

The committee will also advise the council on services and programs that may be of special concern to the city's growing and diverse populations.

--Agreed to apply for the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency's (MHFA) city participation program to help first-time homebuyers in 2010.

Over the past five years, the program has provided more than $2.9 million worth of low-interest loans to qualified home buyers, according to City Planner Mike Weber.

No city funds are involved in the program. Local banks make and service the loans on behalf of the MHFA.

Borrowers must meet income eligibility guidelines and the homes must be located in the city limits.

--Appointed Scott Allen to the Alexandria Housing and Redevelopment Authority Board.

--Confirmed Mayor Ness' re-appointment of Don Nolting to the Alexandria Lakes Area Sanitary District Board.

--Confirmed Mayor Ness' reappointment of Jeff James to the Police Civil Service Commission.

--Confirmed Mayor Ness' appointments of Sara Carlson and Dave Benson to the Liquor Commission. Mayor Ness will also serve on the commission.

--Confirmed Mayor Ness' appointment of Jeanne Batesole to the Armory Community Task Force.

--Designated the Echo Press as the city's official legal newspaper for 2010.

--Designated 19 financial institutions as the city depositories for 2010.

--Set the council meeting schedule for 2010 as the same in the past - the second and fourth Monday of the month, starting at 7 p.m. There is one exception: The October 11 meeting was changed to October 12 because it falls on a holiday, Columbus Day.

--Updated the classifications of city positions and monthly pay ranges. No changes were made in the salary ranges.

--Designated which elected and appointed city employees will be covered under Minnesota's Workers' Compensation.

They include the mayor, council members, Airport Commission, Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission Joint Board, Board of Health, Board of Public Works, Cable TV Commission, Cultural Inclusiveness Committee, Economic Development Board, Joint Airport Zoning Board, Joint Planning Board, Park Board, Planning Commission, Police Advisory Commission, Police Civil Service Commission, Storm Water Utility Committee, Tree Board, Airport Zoning Board of Adjustment, County Water Board, Building Board of Appeals and Utility Board.

--Approved a second and final reading of an ordinance that amends city code concerning the voting process for vacated streets.

The section was changed to allow streets to be vacated by a four-fifths vote of the council. In the past, the vote had to be unanimous.

--Approved a landlord waiver agreement with Alexandria Homes, Inc.

The medical helicopter service, Life Link III, is leasing a building from Alexandria Homes to be used on the airport property. Alexandria Homes asked the city, as the landlord, to execute a waiver to protect the building.

The city attorney and the airport manager reviewed the waiver and didn't have any problems with it, according to City Administrator Jim Taddei.

--Approved a road maintenance agreement with Lake Mary Township concerning Cross Country Lane near Lake Andrew.

The road moves in and out of the city limits and includes both paved and gravel sections, said City Attorney John Lervick.

The city agreed to cover 63 percent of the snow removal costs on the road and the township will pay the remaining 37 percent.

In addition, the city will cover 84 percent of the gravel maintenance and the township will cover the other 16 percent.

--Authorized the mayor, city administrator and finance director to undertake investment transactions on behalf of the city for the year.

--Amended a resolution that authorized the transfer of city funds. The change specifically authorizes city staff to reconcile the accounts during the year, not on an open-ended basis.

--Approved charitable gambling permits for the Viking Sportsmen to sell raffles at a March 18 event at Holiday Inn, and for the Knights of Columbus to sell raffle tickets at a March 20 event at Broadway Ballroom.

--Approved a temporary on-sale liquor license for the Church of St. Mary for a February 13 event.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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