Cat group urges Scottdale to cancel kennel contract
By Karl Polacek
Published: Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, 12:51 a.m.
Flooding and cats dominated Scottdale council's meeting this week.
The borough's cat problem drew the most attention, with a group of more than 25 who came to talk against killing the felines.
Connie Gentry of Mt. Pleasant, president of the nonprofit, Scottdale-based Friends of Homeless Felines, said the group was concerned the borough's contract with Hoffman Kennels of Delmont, was performing a “trap and kill” program. She said part of the information she was providing to council was on the ineffectiveness of “trap and kill.”
“Many other cities and towns have tried this and they just don't work,” Gentry said. “We were surprised to hear of the cat problem, because we have volunteers who live throughout the borough.”
Gentry said her group has treated hundreds of stray cats since becoming involved with the borough over the past 10 years. She emphasized the program offers the services without cost to the borough.
The borough pays $45 for each call to Hoffman.
Gentry said the organization, which includes many Scottdale taxpayers, wants the borough to drop the contract with Hoffman.
Borough solicitor Gerald Yanity confirmed the contract was for a one-year period.
Gentry said Scottdale residents can call the organization at 724-610-9292 or go to the organization's website, friendsofhomelessfelines.org
Borough manager Angelo Pallone and several members of council said the problem developed since January.
Pallone said he would provide the organization's phone number to people calling to complain, but they later reported there was no response.
The problem, according to members of the organization, was the leadership changed in January. The word did not get out to borough officials.
Pallone said the borough had no choice but to make arrangements with Hoffman, in lieu of no response. The problem was made worse because some of the callers reported that some cats appeared to be ill, Pallone added.
Gentry said she is willing to come to the council meeting each month and report on results. She wanted to know how Hoffman handles calls, how long the cats are held, what happened to the cats that are not claimed and who determines wheher the cats are ill.
Pallone said Hoffman is a reputable businessman who has a facility to handle the animals and has a veterinarian on call to check for ill animals.
“We never, ever said we capture stray cats to be killed,” Pallone said.
Council President Andrew Pinskey said the problem appears to be a lack of communication between the group and council.
However, Pallone emphasized property owners have the right to be free of the problems caused by strays.
One resident, Tom McLaughlin, said he is a cat owner, but has had trouble with strays. He said his 7-year-old son had come in one day with a handful of cat feces. He said he worried his boy would get sick because of the stray cat problem.
Other residents also reported problems. One said he has cats, but strays have invaded his garage and porch, urinating and leaving their feces.
Pallone said he talked to a resident who lives near the borough line. She was having problems with cats from a nearby farm. He said he found the woman was leaving cat food out overnight. He suggested she bring it in.
Another problem that was attracting cats, borough residents were not putting out their trash in garbage containers but leaving it out for pickup in plastic bags. Stray cats, skunks and other animals were using the leftovers in the bags as a food source.
Pinskey said the borough has an ordinance requiring garbage to be put out in containers. He instructed Pallone to have the police department begin to enforce the ordinance after 30 days, to give residents time to purchase the appropriate containers.
Gentry said her organization would encourage residents to learn more about other ways to discourage feral and stray cats. She suggested residents view the organization's website.
Bill Close, president of the Scottdale Volunteer Fire Department, said his organization would offer its hall, which can hold more than 600, as a site for an informational meeting on the cat issue, at no charge.
Recent flooding, with two heavy rainstorms within a week, caused problems for residents in several areas of the borough.
Close, who lives on North Chestnut Street, said his neighborhood is one that suffered heavily. He said he had been out for many hours with the fire department, only to return home to find his own basement had sustained severe damage.
Many residents praised Pallone for coming out to view their problems while it was still raining.
Pallone said the water flooding homes in the Mountain View Drive area appeared to be coming from farmland uphill from that neighborhood. He and residents said it appeared that drainpipes were not big enough to handle the flow and water then backed up into homes below the fields.
Pallone suggested the problem may have been made worse because the farmer who owns the field above Mountain View Drive and whose farm is located in East Huntingdon Township, plowed his field from top to bottom, instead of following the contours.
Council instructed Doug Coffman of Widmer Engineering, the borough's engineering firm, to check the drainpipes in that area to make sure they are up to code. Council also instructed borough workers to flush the drainpipes.
In other action, council:
• Adopted Ordinance No. 1180, defining the work that must be done by any utility wishing to dig a hole in borough streets to work on utilities. The ordinance calls for the utilities to extend the hole to the center line of the street. Yanity said a problem may arise with the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County. That body's solicitor reportedly has told local governments the authority does not have to obey local ordinances, only those issued by higher authorities, such as PennDOT.
• Authorized the purchase of a new 2013 Dodge Charger police car from Tri-Star Motors. The cost of the vehicle after a trade-in will be $19,571, plus the cost of transferring equipment.
• Received a request from the Greater Scottdale Girls Softball League to close off several streets for a run/walk event on Nov. 2. Council expressed concern with the route requested by the group. Pallone said it included parts of a state highway and a steep hill. Council wanted the group contacted and informed there would not be enough time to get permission from PennDOT and that the chosen route might not be safe for participants.
• Approved the purchase of four trash containers before the annual Scottdale Fall Festival, to be held Sept. 20-22.
• Tabled the contract with Westmoreland Transit because of questions about how Scottdale's share of the cost is determined.
• Approved TAC Officer training for a Scottdale police officer.
• Authorized payment number 4 for GAI Consultants.
Karl Polacek is a Trib Total Media staff writer. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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