The Abilene City Commission held its Nov. 15 study session to discuss topics including OCCK Transportation Service and amending the ordinance that bans pit bull dogs. Mayor Brandon Rein opened the meeting to public comments in which two local business owners came to speak to the commission about the proposed fleet management deal with Enterprise.
Holm Automotive Center’s Dealer Principal Tim Holm came up to inform the commission about his meeting with Chevrolet. Holm wanted the commission to know he will soon know estimates on what his company can offer in the fleet management area.
“I did want to follow up to re-emphasize our point that we are hopeful that the city and the commissioners will be open to the idea of keeping business in town if you possibly can,” Holm said.
Holm reminded the commission to take into consideration what their decision will do to the local community and business. Up next at the podium, Don Nebelsick, owner of Don’s Tire, spoke to the commission about their duty to focus on local business.
“We are constantly told by the CVB that every dollar turns six times,” Nebelsick said. “So, if you take those dollars out of town, what we pay our employees, who buy homes, buy vehicles, buy groceries, buy gas, pay taxes, as we do in this town.”
Nebelsick also pointed out a quote from City Manager Ron Marsh during the last discussion about fleet management in which Marsh said he doubts that the loss of the city’s business would hurt a local business.
“I don’t know if you (Marsh) ever have been in retail or had to make payroll for everyone that works for you, pay your taxes, pay everything, they all count,” Nebelsick said. “You don’t minimize anything.”
Nebelsick also pointed out the same detail as Holm that local businesses support local children’s groups and activities.
“We don’t need to send jobs out of Abilene,” Nebelsick said.
After the public comments were finished, the commission moved on to their first study item, a presentation from OCCK’s Transportation Service for the City of Abilene.
The presentation started with Abilene specific numbers including, 527 average riders per month, 5,995 rides total in 2021 (Jan to Oct) and an estimated 6,324 rides for the total of 2021.
The numbers broke down further by showing the most used chosen destination including work is 30.6%, Education is 0.1%, Medical is 24.2% and Other is 45.1%.
After breaking down how it benefits the local community, the presentation shows the projects planned for 2020 to 2021, which are a building expansion, increased staffing, more training and updated training. Beyond 2021, OCCK hopes to enhance its software, increase availability, creation of mobility hubs and create work and go programs.
At the end of the presentation, OCCK showed that they are creating a transportation board in the cities they serve to help create a line of communication between residents and OCCK.
Commissioner Chris Ostermann, who assists with a cancer fund, questioned the OCCK representative if the transportation can help residents coming back and forth from treatment in Salina.
The representative spoke on how the drivers are taught how to think about giving the best ride from handling the roads gently to asking for the rider’s music preferences.
Following the presentation, the commission watched Abilene Chief of Police Anna Hatter promote Skylar Reynolds to Sergeant.
The next item on the study session agenda was the application for an appointment from Corey Jones for the Tree Board. The commission had no questions on how Jones would be a good fit for the board.
Lastly, the commission started their discussion about the city’s pit bull ban, which was brought to their attention by an email from a local resident. Commissioner Trevor Witt asked Marsh to add the discussion topic to the study agenda. The commission can create an amendment to change the ordinance from a breed-specific ban to a vicious dog ban.
The new ordinance would create three classifications of dog, potentially dangerous dogs, dangerous dogs and vicious dogs, with more restrictions and penalties on owners as the dog moves classifications. The ordinance would also define a “reckless dog owner” so they can create penalties to enforce responsible dog ownership.
Emily Quiles, a local business owner and certified dog trainer, came to the study session to speak with commissioners about dog breed-specific bans. She started her speech by passing out visual aids to the commissioners and city workers to ask if they could tell which dog in the photos was a pit bull.
“It just goes to show the characteristics of breed ban isn’t very effective cause we all have different experiences with dogs,” Quiles said.
Quiles went further into how the breed ban “is a half thrown” attempt and how the city would lose future military residents because they can’t move into city limits with their pet pit bulls.
“One issue with Abilene’s breed ban is that it’s subjective,” Quiles told the Abilene Reflector-Chronicle. “It’s a ‘characteristics of’ breed ban, meaning that any dog that animal control or a city official thinks is a pit bull is banned. That dog might not have any ounce of pit bull DNA, but would be banned because someone inexperienced with dogs thought it looked like one. You can’t tell me that out of all the dog breeds, only one breed is ‘vicious.’ Most breed bans encompass several breeds, like rottweilers and mastiffs, but the Abilene breed ban does not. As someone new to Abilene, this tells me that the breed ban was created in reaction to something and not prepared properly. Unfortunately, the City of Abilene is missing out on extra money here. They could allow pit bulls with reasonable expectations and charge an extra fee for people to have them within city limits very similar to the code that Junction City recently adopted or they could abolish the breed ban altogether like Manhattan.”
After Quiles’ speech, Rein asked City Attorney Aaron Martin if the city would face any legal ramifications for keeping the breed ban.
“I say this completely objectively, not advocating for a particular outcome,” Martin said. “As it currently stands in Kansas and the Federal Circuit court that governs our district, I’m not aware of any legal authority for the notion that the city’s existing ban on pit bulls is unlawful or unconstitutional. That is strictly a legal perspective.”
According to Martin, the city created this ban in 2017 and the city also has in place a prohibition on companion vicious dogs with regard to breed.
Vice Mayor Dee Marshall asked if it would be simpler to combine the two elements into one ordinance, including city code 4-117 & city code 4-116.
“A lot of an animal’s temperament is training and I have seen vicious Dobermans and German Shepherds,” Marshall said.
Martin said it would be better to speak with the people enforcing the regulations instead of him when it comes to combining the ordinances.
Ostermann did raise a concern with the new amendments is that if a dog becomes a vicious status it means an incident has already happened to someone. Marsh pointed out that there will be a progression of labels before a dog becomes vicious to keep any future incidents from happening and Witt asked that an information packet be created so residents can learn more about the proposed changes.
Marsh decided to spend time with Martin to create the amendments before proposing them at the second meeting of December.
At the end of the meeting, Marsh announced that the City of Abilene was awarded one million for the 14th Street Project.