BLACK LICK — An animal-control ordinance that bans residents from keeping wild animals and subjects them to citations for letting their pets or farm animals run at large has been adopted by the Burrell Township board of supervisors.
Chairman Dan Shacreaw, Vice Chairman John Shields and newly-seated Supervisor Sam Hilty unanimously approved the new regulation that drew nary a peep of public response — until after it was enacted.
During a month-long public review period, only one person came to the township office to get a copy of the proposed regulation and no one registered an opinion for or against it, Shacreaw said.
But residents at an unusually well-attended monthly board meeting Wednesday dominated the public comment period with praise for its approval and condemnation as a demonstration of “local government overstepping their bounds.”
Shacreaw said the township’s enforcement philosophy is to give a verbal or written warning for a first offense, then to issue a citation for repeat offenses.
The supervisors or ordinance enforcement officer would say, “We’re trying to work with you, please correct the issue,” Shacreaw explained. “We can’t make them keep their animals on their property but every time an animal would be off their property, they could be fined.”
The ordinance allows the district judge to impose a fine ranging from $50 to $600.
Minutes after the ordinance was approved, Kelly Knupp, of Barrondale Road, pushed for its quick enforcement against a neighbor whose chickens overrun her yard and porch.
“My neighbor’s chickens are out every single day, pooping on my porches and my driveway, my cameras are going off all day long,” Knupp said. “Now that it’s approved, I’m happy but am I going to call you every single day?
“After the first warning, they will get cited every time, as long as you can prove it,” Shacreaw said.
“I can tell you Sean (Carnahan, the ordinance officer) is not going to give them a verbal warning because he has already talked to them,” Shields said. “They’re going to get a written warning then start getting citations.”
Knupp persisted in describing the chickens’ transgressions.
“Have you thought about chicken soup?” Shields said.
Gilbert Woodley, who forewent an opportunity to comment on the ordinance at the beginning of the meeting, said it shouldn’t be the supervisors’ place to get into matters that neighbors should settle for themselves or take before a judge in the district court.
Woodley charged at length the ordinance was vague and could be applied against those such as he and others who care for stray animals that approach their homes, then wander away to other properties.
“I have animals and I take care of my animals,” Woodley said. “I have fences but things do happen. Deer knock down my fences — my horses got out three times in October and November because we had a deer issue. I get them back in but things do happen.
“And cats get dropped off at Saylor Park, and they make their way over to my house. Are you saying if those cats go onto a neighbor’s property, then I am responsible for that?” Woodley asked.
“If you’re feeding them when they’re on your property, then you would be liable for that,” Shacreaw said.
“I don’t think it’s local government’s job to deal with issues between neighbors,” Woodley said.
“I agree with you but we also have to look out for the health, safety and welfare of the overall community,” Shacreaw said. “But if a deer knocks your fence down and your horse gets out … we’re not going to cite you for that. We understand, stuff happens.
“It’s about the nuisances that happen every day, the cats on peoples’ porches, the chickens pooping in yards.”
“I can’t disagree with you,” Shields told Woodley. “But we have to handle the complaints one way or another. It’s been laid on our laps and we can’t just ignore it.”
The ordinance takes effect Monday.
In other business, the supervisors:
• Agreed to advertise for applications for a full-time laborer on the road crew at a wage of $18 an hour, plus benefits after completing a 60-day probationary period. The deadline is March 3; applicants will be called for interviews the week of March 6.
• Reported that the audit of liquid fuels accounts for 2020 and 2021 produced two findings: first, that the township failed to properly advertise for bids on road salt supplies and must reimburse the liquid fuels account a sum in excess of $10,000 from the general fund; and second, that the township improperly spent liquid fuels money for the repair of a garage door. That undisclosed amount was reimbursed from the general fund some time ago when the error was discovered, Township Secretary Mandy Hoover said.
The liquid-fuels account represents money paid to the township from the state gasoline tax earmarked for the winter care and summer maintenance of township-owned roads.
• Accepted bids from David Transportation, of Burrell Township, for supplies of various kinds of road repair materials and from Derry Construction, of Derry, to supply asphalt for paving roads in the next work season.
• Reported the receipt of a grant of $150,000 from Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development for construction of the new combination library and municipal office building on Main Street in Black Lick. The award brings to $579,000 the total of grant funds for the project.
Shacreaw said water service was turned on Wednesday, the drywall panels are being painted and exterior siding is being installed. A move-in date for the library and township office hasn’t been set.
• Briefly mentioned that the township may start its own website, “so we start putting stuff online,” Shacreaw said, as he reported that the township has updated the road agreement contract that allows the bonded operation of overweight vehicles on local roads. No other details were given.
• Welcomed resident Laura Hutcheson, who announced her candidacy for the Republican nomination to run for tax collector.
• Relayed activity statistics for 2022 by the Black Lick Volunteer Fire Department including response to 232 alarms excluding basement pumping requests, other weather-related services and pages for fire officers. The volunteers put in more than 775 hours in emergency service and over 1,000 man-hours in training. The department report included a public appeal for more volunteers both as emergency responders and fundraising event workers.