At their June 14 regular commission meeting, the LaBelle city commissioners took steps to relieve both residents in areas overrun by feral cats and the suffering of the animals themselves.
LaBelle Animal Control Supervisor Doug Morgan along with Director of the Caloosa Humane Society Alex D’Stefano, outlined a plan to humanely trap feral cats, spay/neuter and immunize them, then return them to the area where they were found. The men said the program has been proven in other areas to reduce the number of feral cats over time.
The board members were pleased with the proposal and will have to change the definition of feral cats in the city’s nuisance ordinance. Currently, all cats are considered domestic by the ordinance.
The humane society is asking the city to approve the program only, not requesting any funding. It is to be funded only by private grants and donations.
Animal Control will help monitor calls and complaints about the unwanted cats.
According to Mr. Morgan, Animal Control now handles about 100-200 calls regarding feral cats
The ordinance will apply only to cats inside the city limits.
Cats must have no known owner when they are unwanted to be considered feral.
The men felt strongly that the 48-month pilot program will prove its value. They said Martin County started with a five-year pilot program, then voted it in as permanent solution to its problem.
City Attorney Angela Hill said the board should amend the required chapter of its nuisance ordinance for a first reading in August.
Mr. D’Stefano said the program will be free for residents, and no extra trouble for Animal Control.
The board also discussed complaints about code violations in the downtown area, the “front lawn of LaBelle.”
LaBelle Downtown Redevelopment Council (LDRC) members were adamant that the city must enforce its codes to protect the city and downtown businesses’ investment.
The LDRC is working to improve the downtown area and is concerned about several businesses they feel have flaunted ordinances. They want to make LaBelle “shine” with flags and walking areas. They said they want locals and visitors to feel welcome in the downtown area and asked the city to tell businesses to “clean up or get out.” The council asked the board to enforce codes and make businesses meet the requirements.
Superintendent of Public Works Michael Boyle said that code enforcement personnel have spoken to businesses about the violations and are working toward their goal.
Several properties are now up to code, he said, but some businesses are not aware of special codes for the downtown area.
The LDRC hopes to organize downtown businesses in August; to set goals and bring business owners together.
Commissioners decided to allow a special request to upgrade a Nassau Electric, Inc., sign on the city’s right-of-way. It’s against code for a private sign to be situated on city right-of-way, however the sign has been there for years without anyone realizing it was not up to code. The board grandfathered in the sign, allowing it to remain there and further okayed the upgrade. However, the sign will still need to go through the variance application.
In other business:
– Fire Chief Josh Rimes reported that there were 61 calls in June inside the city.
– Water treatment plant equipment has been installed and is running 95 percent clean
– New equipment at the wastewater treatment plant has been installed and should be complete next month.
– City Director of Finances Ron Zimmerly noted that the county’s recent inclusion in the federal Promise Zone should add extra points toward grant applications for the city.