SIDNEY — Sidney City Council heard an update on the 2020 trap-neuter-return clinics and discussed the future of Sidney Waterpark operations at its Monday night teleconference meeting.
Kelli Ward, Shelby County deputy/dog warden, provided the annual update on the ongoing progress of the trap-neuter-return clinics for feral cats, which just completed its fifth year of the program. Ward said luckily the coronavirus pandemic did not affect the program too much.
The Shelby County Animal Shelter, SCARF, and the city of Sidney has worked for the last five years with NOMAD’s Veterinarian Lauren Miller to reduce feral cat population. Ward said 913 cats have been spayed, neutered or euthanized, due to poor health, within Shelby County. The overall total expense after five years is $55,213.
Property owners must call and give permission for the traps to be placed. The TNR clinic workers place cages with food and water in areas known to have feral cats running around. Captured cats are then taken to Miller, a mobile veterinarian who comes to town to help with the cats. They are first given a medical examination, spayed or neutered, given a rabies vaccination and then their ears are given a small tip so they can be recognized if they are ever recaptured. Volunteers then return the cats to the areas where they were captured.
Ward said they had a “pretty successful year” in 2020 with the clinics, but there was “just a lot of cats.” Making an conservative estimate by averaging three kittens born per litter, she said over the course of the five year TNR period, 1,257 kitten births are estimated to have been prevented by spaying/neutering.
In other business, Parks and Recreation Director Duane Gaier led a discussion Monday was about the possibility of contracting with an outside company to staff and run the pool. Aside from the pool being closed last year due to COVID-19, Gaier said the city has struggled for the last several years to hire enough lifeguards to staff the waterpark.
In 2009, 27 lifeguards were on staff at the pool. However, in 2018 there were only 16, and in 2019, 18 lifeguards were on the waterpark staff. The lack of applicants could be from young people participating in sports, or possibly the pay, it was noted in previous city meetings. As additional incentive the city changed its policy in 2020 to pay the $200 fee for the required lifeguard training certification. Previously the fee would have been reimbursed after the end of two years of employment. But as Gaier noted, then the coronavirus pandemic hit and the pool did not open in 2020.
With a contractor, which city staff is still considering between two different vendors, the city would only be responsible for filling the pool and ensuring equipment is ready to go, and also for any major repairs to the waterpark. Otherwise, the contractor will be responsible to staff and clean the waterpark and provide chemicals for regular treatments of the pool water. The city would still run the concession stand.
Compared to 2019’s numbers, it would save the city of Sidney money and city staff time to hire an outside company to run the water park, but revenue numbers change annually based upon days open, rentals, etc., Gaier said. When looking at the numbers over the last five years, hiring an outside source would be slightly more costly for the city, but the numbers are “very close,” he said
Gaier said he has heard almost no negative feedback from other cities which took this route to staff their municipal pools.
In the end, Gaier was directed to draw up legislation for further consideration at a future meeting.
During council member comments at the end of the meeting, Ed Hamaker, and others, noted the new digital billboard at the intersection of Michigan Street and Fourth Avenue makes the gateway into Sidney look very nice.
Mayor Mike Barhorst thanked council members for their participation at the Agape food distribution day held at the Shelby County Fairgrounds on Jan. 21. He said most of the people who came were elderly, with only a couple of families who came, so he suspects the need for the distribution of food could probably be met at Agape Distribution.
Barhorst also shared he issued a proclamation Monday to Sidney City Schools Superintendent Bob Humble declaring the week of Jan. 25 School Choice Week in Sidney.
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