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City Council and Animal Care Volunteers Resolve Battle; Truck Purchase Approved

By Sue Curry Jones

With approximately 18 spectators in attendance last Thursday, the Ava Board of Aldermen held a regular bi-monthly council session at City Hall, the meeting started at 6 p.m. As usual the evening agenda noted several business items for discussion and decision-making; however, the primary topic of concern for council and citizens on-hand was a rift that had recently occurred between the City and animal-care volunteers assisting at Ava’s pound shelter.

The pound issue was a topic on the evening agenda, and several citizens were in attendance, to talk about the problem.

Laura Umphenour, district leader of the Humane Society of the United States and spokesperson for Ava’s animal shelter volunteers, appeared before council and expressed several positive services the local volunteers provide to the City pound shelter. In her plea, Umphenour said volunteers assist with vaccination records and updates; walk and exercise animals; contribute food and upkeep items; advertise dogs and cats for adoption; and place animals in homes, nearly eliminating euthanasia costs.

Umphenour said the volunteers are resourceful and help meet the needs of animals; but the group had encountered a recent conflict with the animal control officer over the care of a cat. Also, a complainant had noted an animal was sprayed with water from a hose. She said there are standards for animal care programs, and it was the goal of the group to see the needs of pound animals are met and upheld.

While Umphenour presented info at the podium, Alderman Bill Long sat at the council table speaking out adversarial refutations, and dissing the concerns of the group. Finally, Umphenour stopped mid-sentence, turned to Long, and politely asked for an explanation or reason for the antics. At that point Long stopped. However, during the brief skirmish, several specta­tors in the crowd cited Long’s behavior as disruptive and rude. Shortly thereafter, focus was regained and the meeting continued with Umphenour at the podium.

Later Long openly apologized to the volunteers, expressing regret for the comments and actions.

In response, Mayor Eddie Maggard stated the animal care volunteers are welcome at the pound shelter as long as the animal control officer or a city employee is on-site. Maggard noted liability issues are a factor, and acting on advice from the city attorney, it was now necessary for an employee to be present when volunteers work in the facility.

Councilmen Keith Jones stated the City of Ava wishes to continue the partnership with the volunteers. He noted the volunteer group is an asset to the City of Ava shelter; however, it is also important and imperative volunteers are willing to work with the animal control officer (ACO) and abide by rules. Jones advised the ACO is in charge of the pound facility, and the only change being implemented is that the shelter will only open to volunteers at posted times. And, after hours, volunteers will have access to his telephone number for emergencies.

Jones said the incident was blown out of proportion, and a major part of the miscommunication stemmed from an improper and slanderous email written by a volunteer. The message, which was passed around town, made slanderous statements and incorrect allegations. In defense, Jones noted Ava’s control officer has reliably worked for the benefit of the animals, and the fact Ava rarely has to put an animal down substantiates the commitment.

As a follow-up comment, Jones strongly advised the transgressing volunteer apologize to the control officer.

Councilman Burrely Loftin noted he had conferred with Karen Fox, a local volunteer, and both had agreed there was a misunderstanding.

As a part of the discussion, Fox also addressed councilmen and city officials and expressed appreciation for opportunities to assist at the shelter. She noted the importance of allowing volunteers the ability to help and work with the animals at the site. She said the volunteer group has had a good relationship with the city, and they want to continue the provisional support.

Fox said volunteers are willing to meet with officials and the animal control officer to reach an accord.

Concluding the discussion, both parties agreed to move forward and work together. The volunteer group consented to work with the animal control officer, and work within the posted hours and rules.

Administrative Director Peggy Porter updated board members on city financials ending October 31, 2014. Porter’s report provided cash balances for FY2014 to-date, along with comparison points and balances from FY2013. She advised council the auditor suggests the City of Ava maintain a three-month reserve in each fund, as a way to provide a cushion for unforeseen operating expenses. Porter said the formula for figuring the reserve amount was provided by the auditor.

Airport Manager David Davidson reports activity at the municipal airport is increasing, and the facility handles 20-30 planes each month. Davidson advocated adding fueling options to the airport site, as it would increase viability and traffic to the Ava location. Adding fuel is an important item he would like to pursue for the near future.

Davidson noted a tree removal project is slated for the east end of the airport, and tentative plans to re-seal the runway are being pursued with MoDOT.   He noted the high school trade class has been a real boost to facility upgrades, as student tradesmen have installed power and water lines, receptacles for engine warmers, and greatly improved an existing hangar. He said the class has done an excellent job, and students are ready and willing to work on another building at the site.

He advised the airport has an opportunity to install an Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS), a system that disseminates accurate weather, wind speeds, and current information to pilots, and citizens. The data may be used in a variety of ways, but it is also current as the system updates every minute.

Ray Davison, Ava’s industrial arts teacher, said the AWOS unit now available was originally purchased for individual use, but to-date the equipment has been stored in a dry hangar, unused. Davison said a new system costs over $70,000, but this unit is available for $4,300, plus the cost of a transmitter, which runs $5,000 – $7,000. The facility would benefit from the system, as pilots rely on minute-by-minute accuracy, and locals may benefit as well.

As a teacher, Davison said the hangar upgrades and improvements have been a good opportunity for students to learn different fields of trade, while remodeling the hangar. The group restored picnic tables, and added a swing to the site. He noted the group is ready to start the next building.

Davison also expressed thanks for the purchase and installation of airport surveillance cameras. He said the system has been a great addition to the facility.

Council voted 4-0 to purchase a 2004 ¾-ton extended cab pick-up truck from Bailey Chevrolet in Willow Springs, Mo. The truck has 40,000 original miles and a price of $13,500. Previously, in a prior session, council reviewed bids from Davis Auto Sales and Lakey, Inc., both of Ava, but the bid offerings fell short of expectations.

The city had earmarked $15,000 for the planned acquisition.

For several weeks the City of Ava has advertised for architectural firms interested in tackling the remodel of the former Town & Country Bank building on South Jefferson, in an effort to convert the space into a new city hall location. Asking for qualifications for the project, the following firms submitted replies: Dake Wells Architecture, Gaskin Hill Norcross, Rio Contracting, Butler Rosenbury & Partners, Sapp Design Associates, and Marshall Waters Woody, all of Springfield, Mo.; and Torgerson Design Partners, of Ozark, Mo.

During open session, councilmen chose three, of the seven firms, as the company to make a presentation. The firms are: Gaskin Hill Norcross, Sapp Design Associates, and Butler Rosenbury & Partners.

Council approved the purchase of a control panel to operate the lift station at the waste water/sewer plant. The panel, which requires 3-4 weeks for completion, will be a fitted design from West Plains Electric Controls and Automation, Inc., 6680 US Hwy. 63, West Plains, Mo. According to the bid submitted to Supervisor Jeff Coffer, the cost of the panel is $6,423.00, plus $700 for installation and start-up, or $7,123.

Councilmen Loftin and Jones made motions for the purchase; the vote was 4-0.

Noting a recent letter from the Department of Natural Resources, advising the City of Ava to begin making arrangements for plugging city well No. 7, south of Ava, by May 1, 2015, councilmen opted to request bids on the project work to be done. The well has not been implemented for use by the City of Ava as contamination continues to plague the site, and for that reason, the water cannot be incorporated into the system without chlorinating the entire drinking water system. Hence, council is plugging the well.

In a 4-0 vote, with motions by aldermen Bill Long and David Norman, council passed a resolution for a municipal election on Tuesday April 7, 2015, with the purpose to elect a mayor, and a representative to the east and west ward.

Councilmen voted 4-0 to revise an existing building permit fee and schedule ordinance, by removing a phrase stating duplicate documents are needed, and adding the phrase a building permit expires after one-year or six-months of inactivity.  Motions to adopt, in the first reading were by Long and Jones, and in the second reading, Loftin and Norman. Both votes were 4-0.

Alderman Bill Long commented city, county and state officials had recently met to outline plans for handling a possible Ebola outbreak in Douglas County. Long said facts were thoroughly noted in the Douglas County Herald, and state officials were pleased with the proactive plan.

Councilman Burrely Loftin asked about a timeline for trimming areas overgrown with brush, limbs and branches. Loftin mentioned several areas are in need of trimming, and this will be a problem when winter storms hit and branches break power lines. He recommended trimming now to alleviate problems and costs associated with ice.

According to City Clerk Suzanne Welsh, no voting actions were taken in closed session, but discussions focused on litigation and personnel issues.

The Ava Board of Aldermen will re-convene on Tuesday, Nov. 25, 5:00 p.m. in council chambers, at Ava City Hall, 127 SW 2nd Avenue, Ava, Mo.

Meetings are open to the public.