More taxes, fees, permitted dogs may come out of City Council meeting

CEDAR CITY –Higher taxes, increased fees, bigger salaries and more dogs; these are all issues Cedar City Council is slated to vote on Wednesday.

The regularly scheduled meeting at 5:30 p.m. has a packed agenda for the council to tackle.

Of highest priority are the proposed changes to the city’s dog ordinance that has remained a discussion item for three weeks.

During that time, many conversations swarmed social media and generated controversy from the public at large. The topic even caught national attention from an online publication specifically geared to dog enthusiasts that censured council members for comments made during one of their meetings.

At issue is whether the council should allow residents to own three dogs or continue to limit ownership to the two currently permitted under the city’s ordinance.

Initially, the council discussed restricting ownership of three dogs to animals registered with the American and United kennel clubs. However, the idea drew criticism from various sources including the AKC. The organization sent two email letters to Mayor Maile Wilson opining on the limitation of dog ownership – regardless of breed or registration.

“The American Kennel Club suggests rescinding the limit ordinance entirely, allowing your animal control officers to focus on enforcing quality of life ordinances such as nuisance, noise and sanitation. Limit laws do not work and are a burden to responsible owners who are not causing trouble in their neighborhoods,” the letter stated. “It is not necessary to limit residents to AKC or UKC registered animals, as the rescue group pointed out. The more limitations you create, the more work it will be for your animal control officers to enforce.”

Council members discussed the issue at length in the May 4 meeting, leaving the six men and women with more questions than answers.

“It’s a complex issue,” Council Member Terri Hartley said that evening. “It would be nice if it was simple but it’s not.”

Councilman Paul Cozzens recently came under fire for a statement he made in the first meeting that, some argue, suggested he thinks owners of purebred dogs are more responsible than those who own mutts.

“People who have purebred dogs like this are responsible dog owners and they take care of them,” he said during the April 20 meeting.

Cozzens, however, maintains his words were taken out of context and took to social media last week to clarify his position.

“I did not mean people who don’t own purebred dogs are irresponsible,” he said. “My words were twisted. We were talking about a sportsman permit where people make a large investment in hunting dogs and that’s what I was referring to.”

Posting in several Facebook groups, Cozzens expressed his support of eliminating the city’s ordinance of all dog ownership limitations. Instead, he said, he wants to see the council strengthen the nuisance laws.

“This is all about being a good neighbor and being a responsible pet owner,” Cozzens said. “I’m all for doing away with limitations. People can own however many dogs they want but your rights end where mine begin. I’m all for people owning three or four dogs but if your dogs start infringing on my rights to peace and quiet then we have a problem.”

Cozzens’ comments come in part, he said, because animal control doesn’t have enough resources to enforce limitations. He would like to see the nuisance laws tightened and the city focus on enforcing those.

Cozzens may be a lone vote come Wednesday night.

Several council members said last week they were leaning toward keeping the two-dog ordinance intact. Others, however, haven’t decided.

“I’m just not sure at this point,” Hartley said. “I want to do some more research before I make my decision.”

In addition to the dog issue, the council will consider a proposed resolution regarding a tax increase.

The Iron County Commission is considering a ballot initiative that would ask voters to approve an increase in sales tax by a quarter of a percent. All revenue collected from the sales tax would be split between the county, area cities and the local transit system.

If passed, Cedar City is projected to collect an annual revenue of nearly $500,000, City Manager Rick Holman said. The money would be reserved for the road department.

The county is asking the City Council to sign the proposed resolution showing their support of the ballot initiative.

Holman said, while no one enjoys paying taxes, knowing the money is staying local makes a difference for him.

“I don’t like paying taxes any more than anyone else … but I don’t mind when I know the money is staying here and going for things in our community, as is the case with this money, 100 percent of it stays in Iron County,” Holman said.

In other business, the council is planning to approve a proposed 50-cent fee increase for the aquatic center.

The increase is the first of its kind since the center was opened five years ago, Cozzens said.

Finally, the council is scheduled to approve the city’s tentative budget for next year. Included in the expenses is a 2.5 percent salary increase for city employees, Financial Manager Jason Norris said.

It’s the second year in a row the city has voted to approve a wage increase after not giving any for several years.

The calculations for the increases are based on a wage study conducted last year that showed employees’ salaries were not competitive with other cities comparable in size.

Event details

  • What: Cedar City Council regular meeting
  • When: Wednesday, May 11, 5:30 p.m.
  • Where: Council Chambers, Cedar City Offices, 20 N. Main Street, Cedar City

Email: tsullivan@stgnews.com

Twitter: @tracie_sullivan

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