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No chicken rule ruffles owner's feathers

HIBBING -- Casey Pittman wants to keep his chickens.

For the past several years, the Kitzville resident has raised the birds in his backyard.

Just last week he received a notice from the local animal control officer that it's against city ordinance to house them on his property. He was given 10 days to remove the chickens.

That information and directive prompted Pittman to take action to keep his feathered friends.

"I was not aware there was a city ordinance on this until recently," he told the city council during the public forum Wednesday. "It's my understanding that the ordinance was put in place because of the fear of fowl. There are statements on the Minnesota Department of Health website that state there isn't a health concern with backyard chickens because they are in a small area and not associated with wild birds."

Pittman stressed that he keeps the six chickens in a large coop, that he keeps it clean and that there's never been any issues with neighbors.

"My neighbors get a kick out of them," he added. "It's an interesting hobby."

Pittman provided councilors with a packet of information about backyard chickens, adding that more and more people are raising them these days.

"More and more people are doing this," he said. "I'm just asking that the ordinance be reviewed and there be regulations on it because I'm sure people could get carried away with it."

Pittman also noted that he's most likely not the only one with backyard chickens.

"I didn't realize it was becoming so popular," he added. "But there are a lot of cities that are changing their ordinances."

Councilor Darby Sater asked Pittman if he puts them on a leash and takes them for a walk.

"No, but on occasions I have let them out for a bit," he responded. "They do circles around the house and eat grass. They never go any farther. They're quieter than any dog in any neighborhood, that's for sure."

Councilor Jack Lund inquired if Pittman has a rooster that sings in the morning.

Again, he said no.

"Each makes a little squawk when laying an egg for about 20 seconds. You can't hear it from the street," Pittman said. "I work shift work, and when I'm sleeping after midnights and have my windows wide open, I've never been awakened by them. And when the sun goes down, they go in the coop and make absolutely no noise."

Lund suggested the matter be put on the council's next Committee of the Whole, the working session set for Tuesday, July 30. Mayor Rick Cannata noted that the topic was already expected to be on there due to other issues.

Cannata asked what could be done about the 10 days Pittman has to remove the chickens.

"He's had them for years now," he said. "I'd like an opinion."

City Attorney Dick Sellman said that the ordinance has been in effect the entire time that Pittman has had them, but added that the council could indicate to animal control that the ordinance not be enforced until the council has the opportunity to reconsider the ordinance.

Cannata reminded the council that no formal action could be taken during the public forum.

City Administrator Tom Dicklich mentioned the administrative hearing process and suggested that route if necessary.

That didn't ease Pittman.

"She (animal control officer Amy Linser) made it sound like if I didn't remove them in 10 days that she'd be coming to take them," he said.

Cannata directed Pittman to continue discussions with Dicklich.

Councilor Patty Shafer questioned where the chickens would go.

"What will they do? Take them to the animal shelter?" she asked. "Chicken soup."

In other matters, the council:

• Approved the 2012 audit following a report given by Fort & Company.

• Awarded the following bids: for a tandem dump truck for Public Works to Skubic Bros., International in the amount of $118,033; road striping to Twin City Striping in the amount of $15,656; and a new premise-based telephone system to CW Technology in the amount of $58,533.

• Approved a 2013 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) agreement in the amount of $85,000 for this year's sanitary sewer lining project.

• Approved the Planning Commission recommendation to award the plat exemption request of Ken Dagel to exempt the subdivision of his parcel from ordinance regulations requiring the preparation of a preliminary plat. The subject property is along the east side of Erickson Road, and is located in the S-R Suburban Residential District.

• Approved the Planning Commission recommendation to award an interim use permit to KGM Contractors, Inc., to allow a sand and gravel pit with screening, crushing and bituminous plant operations on Walter Berg property in the O Open Space District. In related action the council approved a text amendment to the city ordinances listing such gravel pits and related facilities as interim use in the O Open Space District.

• Authorized the following staff changes: the hiring of Austin Yancy for the SAFER position at the Hibbing Fire Department pending completion of pre-employment screening requirements; the resignation for purposes of retirement of Gary Ruzich of the Sanitation Department effective Aug. 30; and the resignation of Ted Arnoldy of the Hibbing Volunteer Fire Department retroactive to July 1.

• Authorized councilors to attend the interviews for the position of police chief to be held Monday, July 22, at the Hibbing City Hall. The Police Civil Service Commission is expected to interview five candidates, a mix of internal and external applicants. Police Chief Duane Gielen will retire July 31.

• Adopted a resolution acknowledging the St. Louis County All Hazard Mitigation Plan.

• Adopted a resolution ordering the removal of a hazardous building located at 3728 Ninth Ave. W. and authorized the city clerk to notify property owner Frank Arseneaux of the order.

• Adopted a resolution and order regarding the correction of a hazardous condition of a former church building located at 2306 Third Ave. W. owned by John Gilbertson Ministries.