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Somerset community members challenge pit bull ordinance

Trustees were greeted by a standing-room-only audience at their July 18 meeting. Village President John Melvin rearranged the agenda to allow resident Shannon Luloff to present her case to change village ordinance 7-1-9, subsections (a) and (b), pertaining to the ownership of pit bull dogs. The ordinance is unclear in several regards as to whether pit bulls are allowed within village limits unless grandfathered in prior to the ordinance being enacted and whether they are allowed provided they are registered with the clerk-treasurer and strict guidelines for their care are adhered to.

Although the Luloff's pit bull didn't actually do anything wrong, the intention of the ordinance has been called into question while action to remove the Luloff family pet is slowly underway.

"I have never considered myself a pit bull advocate, until today, until I was pretty much forced to based on my circumstances. Three weeks ago, my son heard a knock on the door. It was a police officer. He told my husband that he received a report of a pit bull sighting. So someone saw our new playful, loving dog either on a daily walk or in our front yard. He was doing nothing wrong," said Luloff.

Luloff said she understands that the police are just doing their job.

"I get that the police are required to uphold and enforce the ordinance so long as it is in place. For some that have had their dogs taken away, they see the police tearing apart their family. The police have to be unbiased, so they take the heat for this outdated ordinance," said Luloff.

Luloff and her supporters put together a petition to eliminate the breed specific language in the current ordinance.

"I'm here because we were given a 30-day notice to get rid of our family dog. We petitioned, put up signs, drafted and presented new language which Felicia shared with you guys to try and help increase the safety of the ordinance because it's essentially not effective as it is. Our signatures totaled over 3,600 (online), 400 of which we collected in Somerset. I received 19 total no's, of that maybe three were actually in support of the current band. We respectfully ask that you agree to have the safety committee review the ordinance with the intention of removing breed specific language and making the ordinance more effective at dealing with safety," Luloff said.

Luloff further requested that any action to remove her family pet, and any other pending removals not based on violent behavior, be suspended until the committee can complete its review and make a recommendation to the full board of trustees.

Trustees also heard from professional pit bull advocate Beth DeLaforest, who shared the results from a number of studies examining breed temperament, which supported pit bulls. She also reported on support from a wide range of animal organizations for elimination of breed specific laws in favor of more effective safety legislation at both a state and local level.

Somerset legal counsel Anders Helquist advised trustees not to take any action that evening to avoid violating open meeting rules.

"I can assure you that we will review the ordinance and work through the process in a correct way with our public safety committee. Constructively thinking here, we are aware of your time constraints, but so that we don't violate the open meeting laws, I can say that we will take a quick look at it. Maybe we can do something in the very near future without penalizing you and your family any further. Your time frame is on the record," responded President Melvin.

Other business

• Trustees approved Frances Street Reconstruction pay request No. 3 for $125,283.62 and change orders No. 4 and No. 5. Pay request No. 3 accounts for all work completed through 6/30/17 including additional costs associated with change order No. 4. Change order No. 4 addressed some unique hookups required for several residences located along Frances Street. Change order No. 5 changes the estimated completion date for the project to Nov. 1, 2017. A title search related to the widening of the Main Street and () intersection will prolong the completion date.

• Trustees approved a cost increase and later estimated completion date for Well No. 5. Test Well No. 5 was originally estimated to cost $55,000. Since the initial site failed while still costing $16,000, trustees approved a revised cost of $71,000 for the new test well site to accommodate the $16,000 already spent. Negotiations between the village legal counsel and property owner of the new well resulted in an increased cost for access to an easement from $250 to $1,000. Prolonged negotiations have moved the timeline back from Sept. 1 to Oct. 1, 2017. Due to funding contingencies, the well must be completed by May 2018 to satisfy Department of Natural Resources requirements.

• Trustees approved Ordinance A-641 officially dissolving the Industrial Development Committee and replacing it with the Economic Development Advisory Committee.

• Trustees approved a bid by Automatic Systems Co., for $5,889 to add additional telemetry at the Arnold Street lift station to incorporate it into the village's existing automated management system.

• Trustees approved a bid from Professional Services Industries Inc. for $7,650 to commence the geo-technical survey (soil borings) of TID 4.

• Trustees approved changing the starting for the regular monthly board meeting to 6 p.m. starting with the August 2017 meeting.