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Aldermen Take Steps to Resolve Weapons Ordinance, Commit to Broaden the Scope

City councilmen unanimously voted to rescind the weapons ordinance adopted during a prior council meeting. In turn, councilmen reinstated the previous ordinance, which was cited as Ordinance No. 464, Chapter 62, Section 177.  During the discussion, Councilman Keith Jones requested the board “go back to the drawing board” and allow use of items such as paint ball guns, air guns, BB guns, etc. with stipulations for use on private property, within the city limits.  Jones asked council to consider drafting an ordinance that is more comprehensive, and less restrictive.  

The weapons ordinance had been changed by the Board of Aldermen after a recommendation was presented by Mayor David Norman during the December 2018 meeting.

Prior to board voting action on Tuesday, Lyndell Lakey addressed city officials asking council to consider revamping the ordinance to reflect recommendations for weapon use within the city limits rather than banning hunting or the use of weapons in town.  

Lakey said he wanted to clarify what transpired over the past week, noting he was not trying to cause trouble.  He said his position was coming from a hunter’s standpoint and according to the city ordinance that had been in place before council’s recent actions, his actions were legal.  Lakey noted he and his son frequently hunt areas in town and those parcels of land are brushy areas that pose no danger to others, and the Lakeys have permission from the property owners.

Lakey expressed his opinion that the new ordinance, recently put in place by council, has an anti-hunting agenda, and this stance by the City of Ava is contrary to other city ordinances.  He noted most cities allow hunting as long as stipulations are followed, and those restrictions may include allowable distances from highly populated areas, schools, or other requirements such as hunting may only occur from an elevated stand.  

Lakey asked council to consider a commonsense approach to resolve the issue and allow hunting within the city limits “rather than caving in to an anti-hunting agenda.” 

In conclusion, councilmen unanimously voted to repeal the current ordinance and reinstate the previous ordinance with the understanding the weapon ordinance will be reassessed and revamped to reflect a more comprehensive policy.  Bow hunting and target practice on the property owner’s land will be added.

Tommy Roberts, chair of the Douglas County Extension Council Board, along with Dr. Krista Tate, County Engagement Specialist in 4-H Youth; Terri Fossett, Regional Coordinator for the SW Region; and Jay Chism, SW Regional Director, University of Missouri Extension, appeared before city council to request $5,000 from the City of Ava in support of hiring an Ag Educator for the local county extension office.  The proposed position would comprise a 20-hour workweek, as an employee of the University of Missouri.  Several in the group had appeared before council last month, but the need to revisit the issue on Tuesday was to answer questions and clarify how the proposed partnership would work.   

Jay Chism said Douglas County Commissioners had voted not to participate in the program as the county did not have the funds to  contribute to the proposed position.   Consequently, Roberts and Chism said the extension office plans to solicit funds from other businesses, such as the Farm Bureau or the Soil and Water Division for help.  

The city was originally asked to partner with the County and together the two would provide $10,000 to the project, with the University of Missouri picking up the remaining $10,000.   

Councilman Keith Jones noted it was his understanding funding for this position should be coming from federal, state and county budgets, not municipal funds from the City of Ava.  Jones stated the city has continued to help and support the county office with a $10,000 contribution each year, but now, because of pending needs for city residents, such as street repairs, it was questionable whether or not the City has the funds to share.  

Terri Fossett advised the county insurance premiums had increased 35% this year and that added expense factor was why the commissioners opted out of the deal. 

Chism said the extension office is always trying to establish a position of value to residents, and it is their hope the City will choose to participate in supporting the Ag Education position with the University of Missouri. 

In other business, Mayor David Norman recognized City Clerk Suzanne Welsh for attaining recognition from the Missouri City Clerk and Finance Officers Association, South Central Division.  Norman acknowledged Suzanne’s accomplishments and recent accreditation to become a Missouri registered City Clerk.  

At the onset of the meeting, Councilman Keith Jones asked to revisit the minutes from the Tuesday, Dec. 11 meeting and correct a statement recorded in the minutes.  The minutes reflected a statement from the CPA that quoted her as saying the City should “try not to use fund transfers as in past years.”  Jones said he questioned recording the minutes that way as he heard the CPA say “the city was not to remove funds from the account as they have in past years.”    Council agreed and approved the revision. 

Treasurer Peggy Porter reported the city was holding firm with a balance of $2,200,000 at the end of December 2018.  At present, she noted the general fund has a negative balance with -$65,000, however, as soon as fund monies balance out over the next few weeks, she will look at transferring money out of the water fund accordingly.  

Porter also noted the city has a reserve fund totaling approximately $535,000, but it is recommended the City maintain approximately $2 million in reserve, which is what they are presently working to achieve. 

Norman said a plan is now in place for creating the brick walkway near the veteran’s memorial at the City Park, with the purchase of one brick costing $50 a piece.  The bricks will be engraved to recognize veterans and may be purchased at City Hall.  Each brick has room for three lines of engraving, with 16 spaces of text on each line.  For those interested in participating and recognizing a veteran, forms are now available at City Hall.  Bricks will be engraved by local artist, Katie West. 

Mayor Norman advised council it is time for the city ordinance book to be reviewed and updated, and for the task, the City of Ava uses a company called Municode to oversee the project.  In past years, the cost ran approximately $4700, but this year, the expense will likely be closer to $5,000.  Norman said Municode reviews each ordinance, verifies wording, and establishes whether or not the rule matches or complies with state law. 

Councilmen present were Keith Jones, Stan Lovan, Burrely Loftin and Noel Dye.  

Meeting video may be viewed on the Douglas County Herald website. 

The Board of Aldermen will reconvene on Tuesday, Jan. 22, at 5:00 p.m.  Meetings are held at City Hall, and open to the public.