City Council Tables Amendment to Loitering Ordinance

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Cassville City Council tabled a motion to amend the Loitering Ordinance at Monday's regular meeting that was added primarily to prevent vandalism in the park.

"We were trying to ascertain the best way to give the police some teeth in dealing with the vandalism we're constantly having in that area," said Public Works Director Steve Walensky. "The recommendation (of legal counsel) was to add verbiage and post signs."

The existing ordinance was originally put in place to deal with groups that would congregate on the square and leave trash in the area. It makes it "unlawful for persons to intentionally congregate upon the grounds or within the buildings of a commercial establishment, schools, places of public business or upon public ways immediately adjacent thereto."

This amendment would have added the phrase "or where posted by the City of Cassville."

"Understanding that this is clearly a judgment call when going through there, because you can't run off someone reading a book," stated Walensky, "The police were trying to find a way to have the authority so when they did see something going on, they could take appropriate action."

Aldermen Ann Hennigan and Jan Anthony expressed concerns about the signs that have already been posted in the park area.

"I don't have any trouble with the verbiage," stated Hennigan, "I just struggle with putting it in a place where people gather, such as a park."

"The signs would hopefully discourage them from gathering," said Cassville Police Chief Dana Kammerlohr, in response to a question from Alderman Darrell Ledenham about the need for signs to enforce the ordinance.

Alderman Terry Heinz expressed his concerns about the limit of the City's authority in enforcing the ordinance at businesses and schools.

"We're exercising authority over things in town that we have no authority over." said Heinz, who further suggested that the ordinance be re-written.

Alderman Anthony moved that the item be tabled and the entire council agreed that the matter should be discussed at a future meeting. A motion by Alderman Hennigan to have the signs at the park removed failed for lack of a second.

In other business that came before the council, local resident Bill Gracy shared his concerns about the White River Watershed National Blueway.

According to Gracy, earlier this year the Secretary of the Interior issued an order establishing this watershed area which encompasses 39 counties in Arkansas and 21 counties in Missouri. Gracy also shared that this order was issued without input from those who would be affected by it.

"What you have now is a group of unelected bureaucrats and environmental groups that nominated these 17.8 million acres as public and private lands and waters so that they could manage it," said Gracy, who also expressed his misgivings about the restrictions that would be placed upon local farmers and ranchers.

"Here is the strategic objective," continued Gracy. "What they want to do is establish a 180' vegetative buffer along all surface waters-ponds, streams, rivers, anything."

Gracy shared his views on what the impact will be for local landowners attempting to meet these requirements and the negative ripple effect that will hurt the city's economy.

In responding to questions from the council, Gracy stated that grassroots efforts in opposition to this order have convinced the secretary to place it on hold.

"There are no innocent bystanders to this whole issue," said Gracy, who expects the issue to return in the near future.

The council also listened to the concerns expressed by resident Gary Miller about the extensive water flow over the road at 14th and Oak Hill during heavy rains when flooding occurs. Walensky provided specific information on the problem and the steps that are being taken to determine a solution.

Further action by the council included:

* Approving a franchise agreement between the City of Cassville and Laclede Gas Company, accepting the recommendation of director Walensky to select an engineering firm to move to the next phase of discussing price meeting the requirements of the DNR for the grant project.

* Declaring property owned by the city in Sherwood Forest as excess for the purpose of selling said property to an interested individual.

The council tabled discussion on a fireworks ordinance and did not set a date for further review of the topic.

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