Napoleon City Council backtracked a bit Monday night and voted down legislation that would have prohibited the feeding of stray cats in the city.
The legislation was part of a plan to reduce the stray cat population in Napoleon, and as it had been drafted, it would have made the first offense a minor misdemeanor. Any offenses afterward would have been misdemeanors of the fourth degree.
Some members of council said they had received numerous comments on the issue since council agreed two weeks ago to have the legislation brought before it.
Before the vote, City Manager Joel Mazur said the city has received numerous complaints about stray cats, and that he felt there was some confusion about the legislation being proposed.
“This ordinance doesn’t prohibit the feeding of cats,” Mazur said. “It just says that if you’re feeding a cat, you have to claim it as your pet. It seems heavy handed that we’re adopting an ordinance that has a penalty, but it’s really a softer approach to having a little bit more control how the cat population grows in Napoleon.”
Councilman Jeff Comadoll first raised the idea of defeating the legislation. He and Councilwoman Lori Siclair had voted against having the ordinance brought to council.
“I don’t think we need to be in the cat business,” Comadoll said. “We’ve got better things to do with our funding than worry about kitty cats.”
He added he received calls from many residents who said they were going to feed stray cats even if the city did pass the prohibition.
Councilman Dan Baer said the problem is compounded by the fact the local animal shelter doesn’t have the room or funding to accept stray cats. He also admitted while there are many of those against the prohibition, there were many residents in favor of it.
“I am not sure what the actual solution is going to be, but I guess I believe this is a problem that’s not going to go away no matter we do,” Baer said.
Law Director Billy Harmon agreed, saying municipalities across the state face the same problem and no one has yet found a solution.
“But this is an attempt,” he said of the legislation.
“I’m definitely not advocating feeding cats, I definitely advocate spay and neuter,” Siclair said. “And I like the idea of people taking the money they’re spending on food and donating it to the humane society.”
Councilman Jeff Mires said he’s received comments both ways on the issued, but added he believes the police department has more to do than “chase people who are feeding cats.”
Council President Joe Bialorucki urged people who want to feed stray cats to care for them beyond that, too.
“If you care about the animals so much that you want to put food out for them, what about all the other things that animal needs? Food is just one aspect of its life, and it’s nice to do that, but who is doing the rest? Apparently no one,” Bialorucki said.
The vote was 2-4, with Bialorucki and Councilman Ken Haase voting in favor of the legislation, and Mires, Comadoll, Siclair and Baer voting against. Councilman Travis Sheaffer was absent.
In other business, council:
• Watched as Mayor Jason Maassel swore in patrolman Daniel Silette and presented a proclamation honoring the 100th anniversary of the founding of the American Legion.
• Approved first reading of an ordinance to accept the revised comprehensive city plan.
• Approved first reading of an ordinance to allow underspeed vehicles on city streets that have a speed limit of 35 mph or less, except for Scott Street north of LaGrange Street. The vote was 5-1, with Comadoll dissenting.
• Approved a resolution to provide a tax abatement to Paul Martin & Sons to help the company relocate within the city limits.
• Agreed to change city bills for customers who pay the Henry County Regional Water and Sewer District assessment to reflect that assessment amount.
• Agreed to a pole attachment agreement with Okolona Telephone Co.
• Agreed to plan to budget nearly $12,000 for a 14-passenger bus to be used within the city limits by the Henry County Transportation Network. The city funds are part of a match for a grant for the bus.
• Approved plans for phase III of the Park Street improvements and for the first phase of improvements at the waste water treatment plant.
• Tentatively scheduled Oct. 31 as trick-or-treat night in the city. The Napoleon Parks and Recreation Board will meet later this month to make an official recommendation, but Mazur wanted to let residents know the likely date so plans could be made. In the future, the board likely will have its recommendation during the August meeting.