A1 A1
File photo | News-Press NOW  

Dogs fill cages at the St. Joseph Animal Control and Rescue shelter. The shelter often receives dogs that have been involved in irresponsible and unlicensed breeding, putting a strain on resources, space and foster owners.

top story
Resurfacing may cause delays between St. Joe, Rusvhille

The Missouri Department of Transportation started resurfacing U.S. Highway 59 between St. Joseph and Rushville, Missouri, on Tuesday, a project likely to cause delays.

According to MoDOT Senior Engineer Austin Hibler, the roadway will be reduced to one lane at times.

Last month, some vehicles were damaged near Maryville, Missouri, when oil used in a MoDOT project failed to set properly. Hibler said there won’t be a repeat of that incident on U.S. Highway 59 because the projects are different.

“That was a completely different type of project,” Hibler said. “They are putting oil down on the roadway but it’s being immediately covered with asphalt.”

“The public should never drive on the oil, so we don’t expect any issues,” he said.

MoDOT is contracting with the Herzog Corp. for the Highway 59 project. MoDOT tasked Vance Brothers with the project near Maryville.

Hibler stressed that the public should slow down in work zones and avoid using cellphones.

“Pay attention when you come up on our work zones, put your phones down and just watch for workers,” he said.

Highway 59 will have about a half-inch of roadway taken off, and another inch and a half laid down with asphalt. Hibler said the center line also will be repaired, though all work is weather permitting.

In a statement, MoDOT said most of the work will be completed Mondays through Saturdays, though some work may occur on Sundays. All work will be done during daylight hours.

MoDOT said Herzog hopes to have the work completed by early November.

“We generally give our contractors a pretty wide window to get the jobs completed,” Hibler said. “This one just happened to fall toward the end of the paving season.”

top story
Charter changes coming to ballot

The St. Joseph City Council decided Tuesday which of the changes recommended by the 2019 Charter Review Committee it would like to see go to the citizens for a vote.

During a work session, Chair Jason Horn presented nine changes to the charter that had been recommended by the Review Committee to the City Council. The council chose four of those items that will appear on a city agenda before ultimately going to the voters on a ballot.

One major change would involve changing the composition of the council to do away with one of the districts that council members can represent.

“The consensus today was that we put before the voters the decision ‘should we change the districts from five to four, in other words divide the city into quadrants based on the census?’ Mayor Bill McMurray said. “Then we would have four at-large members. So, add an at-large member, reduce a district member, we’d have four-and-four plus the mayor.”

The Charter Review Committee had recommended doing away with all districts and having eight at-large council members and the mayor. The Council discussed the issue and determined that having districts provides citizens with someone to go to when they have an issue and reduces the amount of campaigning representatives would have to do around the city.

The council also was in favor of reducing the number of meetings that members can miss due to unexcused absence to no more than six, after which they can be removed from office. The current system allows members to keep their positions while only attending two-and-a-half meetings per year.

Changes to wording in the code would clarify a rule that allows a council member to be elected during the primary if they receive votes equal to more than half of the number of voters.

The final change that the council was in favor of moving on would lower the required retirement age of a municipal judge to 70 years of age. Currently, the charter allows a judge to serve until they are 75. This item reflects the age that the state requires a circuit judge to retire. If that state law is changed to a different age, the charter change would allow the city’s rule to change as well in order to keep the retirement ages the same at both levels.

The council did not approve changes that would have gotten rid of primary elections, introduced staggered elections and increased the number of votes needed to remove the city manager.

They did not discuss a proposal to remove a section of the charter that prohibits limiting trash service that could open a discussion about franchise trash service.

McMurray said compromises were made, but he is happy with the decisions the council made during the work session.

“I was very happy with the committee’s results,” McMurray said. “I kind of liked the idea of term limits. That didn’t even make it to the recommendations. I liked the idea of staggered terms, but I understood the reasons against it. I think the council had a very good consensus here and I think things looked pretty good.”

Another proposed item would change the fiscal year from July to June to January to December in order to match the calendar year.

This items does not require a charter change and will not require a citizen vote. the council seemed in favor of approving an ordinance that would approve that change.

top story
Councilmen not looking to ban pit bulls: video sparks look into dog breeding ordinances

A video that emerged on social media over the weekend has created quite a stir both online and among city officials.

In the video, a puppy is attacked by a pack of pit bulls, owned by John Martorelli, resulting in the small animal’s death. Officials with Animal Control and Rescue are currently investigating the incident to determine if any regulations were broken by Martorelli.

“There are certainly measures being taken to ensure that compliance was there and the individual will likely get citations for some things,” said Jennifer Lockwood, humane educator with Animal Control. “That’s something still under investigation, and we’re certainly working hard on it.”

While the incident is investigated, two city council members are asking that ordinances on breeding be examined. Council member Madison Davis told News-Press NOW on Saturday that he believes the ordinances should be more strict.

“If you look at the ordinances we have now, my opinion is some of those things need to be looked at,” Davis said. “I imagine some of those things certainly apply here.”

Council member Brian Myers, the other council member requesting the examination of ordinances, said Tuesday he wanted to be clear that there were no intentions on outlawing pit bulls.

“Just to be clear, no one is talking about regulating a particular breed of dog,” Myers said. “Some of us want to examine how breeders themselves are regulated, licensed and inspected.”

Currently, anyone seeking to breed a dog or cat with the intention of selling the offspring must purchase a $50 license. If a litter occurs, which is considered a pregnant female dog or cat, a $100 litter license must be purchased whether the pregnancy was intentional or accidental.

These ordinances help to reduce the number of animals the shelter has to care for, with breeding causing many open cages to be filled and many foster owners to be occupied.

“We’ve seen a lot more moms and puppies come in this year, so it is problematic when people don’t spay and neuter their pets or they don’t breed responsibly,” Lockwood said. “It trickles down to the shelter becoming full.”

The required licenses also help ensure that animals are being cared for, with part of the licensing regulating treatment of the animals.

“The individual has to provide us with information of who the dog is being sold to or given away to,” Lockwood said. “Under that does fall vet care; it is their responsibility to make sure that the animals are vetted and cared for and not weaned too early from the mother.”

Though breeding is somewhat regulated, there are currently no ordinances against a particular breed, but pit bulls that are brought to the shelter after biting someone have to be sterilized before returning home.

“It’s a scary thing that happens, and I think it is easy to jump to that conclusion that maybe we should just ban pit bulls,” Lockwood said. “But that is not really solving any problems. Breed-specific legislation is actually being lifted in a lot of a lot of states, because there’s a lot of research that says it’s actually ineffective.”

Lockwood mentioned another ordinance that may relate to this case. The vicious dog ordinance makes it such that dogs with multiple, unprovoked attacks are declared vicious, and owners must go through several steps to correct the issue.

“Once the dog is declared vicious, there are several steps that the owner has to take in order to get the dog back, including a secured kennel area, if it’s out in public, it has to be in a muzzle and obviously it has to be sterilized,” Lockwood said. “So there are certainly much bigger hoops to jump through if your dog is declared vicious to have it back.”

No criminal charges have been filed against Martorelli as of Tuesday evening, and the matter has not officially been presented to the City Council.

top story
State leaders to raise awareness about vaping risks

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — In a press conference Tuesday, Gov. Mike Parson announced a new executive order that will launch an anti-vaping campaign.

The “Clear the Air: The Risks of Youth Vaping” campaign will be coordinated by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The governor appeared with officials from the departments in the governor’s office at the Missouri Capitol.

Executive Order 19-18 directs the three departments to “use existing resources and appropriations to collaborate in developing a statewide campaign designed to educate, warn and deter the use of vaping devices among the youth of the state of Missouri.”

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, criticized the governor’s timing in a statement released Tuesday.

“A good place to begin in addressing this crisis would be for the governor to support repealing the shortsighted, pro-industry legal protections that have helped addict another generation of young Missourians to nicotine and, in some cases, cost them their lives,” said the statement released by Quade’s office.

The Springfield Democrat also called out Parson’s voting record, pointing to a 2014 bill that would exempt “alternative nicotine products or vapor products” from being regulated and taxed as tobacco products.

The bill was vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon, but it was overridden by the legislature. Parson and Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, who were senators at the time, voted in support of the override.

“This bill, which is supported by sellers of such products and at least one major tobacco manufacturer but is opposed by leading health organizations, creates a facade of regulation and is actually harmful to Missourians because of the special exemptions it provides for these dangerous products,” Nixon said in his 2014 veto. “As a result, it does not meet with my approval.”