LOOGOOTEE – A “cat fight” broke out at the Loogootee City Council meeting Monday night.
Several women who live on North Oak Street complained about two dozen feral cats who not only are a nuisance, but they claim bring disease to their pets and even humans.
“We just want a solution,” one woman said.
The women said a neighbor, identified only as “Rick,” has a good heart and puts food out for the cats because they are hungry, but they said that only encourages the feral cats to stay in the area. She said the neighbor denies the cats are his, but her comeback was, “If you feed them, they are your cats.”
One woman said her dog came into contact with fecal matter left by a sick cat, which in turn made both the dog and the woman sick.
Councilwoman Ruth Smith said when people feed feral cats, the animals then do not learn how to forage for food for themselves. She said every time a female cat is spayed, it prevents 160 kittens.
Mayor Noel Harty said both Martin County Sheriff Travis Roush and Martin County Prosecutor Aureola Wright are aware of the cat situation, but say they can do nothing about it given the current city ordinance.
Council President Roger Downey suggested changing the city ordinance to prohibit residents from feeding feral cats. Other council members agreed changing the ordinance needs to be considered.
However, no motion was made to take any action on the matter. City Attorney Isha Wright-Ryan is on vacation and was absent from the meeting.
The Martin County Animal Shelter has an official capacity of 25 cats, although 43 were there as of Monday night, said Courtney Hughett, one of the shelter’s six volunteers. She said they are trapping cats throughout the county based on a two-page list whenever the shelter has space. Every week a van comes to pick up cats that need to be spayed.
Although the women from Oak Street said they have been complaining about the cat problem for more than a year, Hughett said she only recently became aware of it. She said they need to be patient and the shelter volunteers will try to trap the cats as soon as space becomes available.
Smith told the women she lives less than two blocks from them, but only heard about the cat problem recently.
“These folks have been patient and we need to take care of them,” said Harty.
One of the women said, “We just want to know someone is doing something about this.”
Smith assured the women that the city officials will take action.
“Have faith in us,” she said. “We’re slow, but we’ll do it.”
In other business, a divided council voted 3-2 to purchase a new 2018 vacuum truck for the Wastewater Department. It will cost $350,000, minus $10,000 for a trade-in of the city’s current truck. It will be financed over 10 years, with annual payments of about $41,000.
Smith, Teresa Nolley and Carroll Rayhill voted in favor, while Downey and Collin Padgett were opposed.
Public Works Superintendent Bo Wilson presented the council a choice between a new truck and a 2003 truck currently being used in Evansville. The used truck would have cost $110,000, with three years of financing. However, it has 130,000 miles on it, far more than Loogootee’s current truck.
Wilson said the department’s current truck is 25 years old and has been owned by the city for eight years. He said a new truck should last for 25 years.
“I don’t want to spend the money at all,” Smith said, “but if we need it I would rather go new for 10 years.”
Padgett said, “I don’t think repair is the best option, but I don’t know where the money will come from.”
He said the city accounts were going down rapidly.
Harty said the city’s sewer account currently held more than $800,000.