MONTPELIER — For those tired of seeing or treading in dog feces in Hubbard Park and the Capital City, help is on the way.
The City Council on Wednesday approved $5,100 for the installation of 11 dog waste stations around the city. The plan is to set up five of the stations — which consist of a bag dispenser for picking up the waste, a waste receptacle and a sign — in Hubbard Park. Two more will be put on the bike path near the high school, two on Stone Cutters Way, one at North Branch Park and one at the Dog River Fields.
The stations come at the request of the dog waste working group, created by the Parks Commission to address the issue of dog feces around Montpelier.
Lyn Munno, a parks commissioner and member of the volunteer group, told the City Council there seem to be more dogs in the city lately and that has caused an increase in dog waste. She said that, besides being unsightly and annoying if stepped in, dog waste can hurt water quality from runoff into streams and water tables.
One issue the group wanted to address was people letting their dogs do their business in the woods in Hubbard Park and then walking away. Munno said children play in those woods and that last year she was with a group of kids in the park and the children wanted to leave because “it was disgusting” from all the dog waste.
Munno said just putting the stations up should decrease the amount of waste around the city.
“Studies have shown that if you don’t give people a place to put the waste, they won’t clean it up,” she said.
Another waste group member, Elizabeth Grupp, said the cost of the stations was $4,400 and the additional $700 was for what they guess will be a year’s supply of bags. She said it would cost around $2,000 a year for the removal of the waste from the stations, which will be done by the city’s sanitation department, and maintenance of the stations.
The waste group is asking the city to cover those costs in the future. In the meantime, it has raised $1,500 and will continue to raise money for maintenance and waste removal unless the City Council agrees to provide stable funding for the annual costs.
Mayor John Hollar wanted to put the onus on the city’s dog owners.
“It seems to me this is a situation where you’ve got a finite population, dogs and dog owners, and a finite cost,” he said. “It seems to me that you have the dog owners pay the cost of having a dog. It seems pretty symmetrical to me. I don’t understand why you would have the whole population of people who don’t own dogs paying for the cost of those who do own dogs.”
The council discussed adding a fee to the license, possibly $5, to cover the upkeep of the stations. But City Clerk John Odum said changing the dog license fee would require a charter change. The city happens to be in the middle of that process already for unrelated reasons.
The working group also would like to tighten the city ordinance on dog waste. It currently doesn’t prohibit owners from taking their dogs into the woods to do their business, but the volunteer group wants to change that.
“We’re interested in just making sure the ordinance reflects the desired behavior that we want,” Munno said. “Right now (the ordinance) is in contradiction to what we are asking people to do.”
The ordinance is lengthy and gives specifics as to where people need to pick up their dog’s waste, such as a public park, walkway, sidewalks, playgrounds, cemeteries and school grounds. The group wants to simplify the ordinance to mimic similar ordinances in Barre, Burlington and Warren, which essentially say people are responsible for picking up the waste of their animal when not on their own property.
City Manager William Fraser said such a change would require two readings of the new ordinance during City Council meetings and advised the group to write down exactly what it wants the ordinance to say so it can be placed on the agenda for the council’s next meeting Nov. 13.
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