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Council considers animal rescue amendmentMHI land sale update coming

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Cherokee City Council has agreed to revisit its previous decision to change the city ordinance regarding animal rescue operations within city limits after an address by Courtney Hatch at last week’s council meeting. 

Hatch is the owner of Max Wildlife Foundation which rehabs wildlife including bats and raccoons. She previously appeared before the council in July 2023 when the ordinance was amended to prohibit her rescue work. She operates the business out of her home on West Willow Street and is a registered nonprofit. 

Hatch noted that she has been assisting animals for three years and worked as an apprentice for two years under Wildlife Central for Iowa before beginning her own business. The issue was brought to the council’s attention after several complaints had been made by Hatch’s neighbors about loose raccoons who had escaped from her property and the amendment prohibiting the “keeping dangerous or illegal animals by a wildlife rescue organization with appropriate permits from the Iowa DNR or U.S. Fish and Wildlife” was approved on June 27, 2023. 

Hatch informed council that she has since spoken with her neighbors to gain their approval and none of them object to Max Wildlife Foundation’s work. She has also created a new plan for handling rescue raccoon cubs. She explained that she would relocate them to a property outside of town to continue their rehabilitation after they reached a certain age and no longer required around-the-clock care.

Council member Amy Loughlin requested that Hatch present a plan to the city on how the operation would run, including an estimation of how many animals could be cared for in her rescue at one time and provide documentation from her neighbors that express their approval. With that additional information the council may choose to review the ordinance.

In other business, the city council heard questions and concerns from three Cherokee residents regarding the 2021 Roosevelt St. assessment letters. Jackie Miller, Kevin Halder and Tom Tushla all expressed dismay that they were billed for a project that they believe did not benefit their properties as well as the method of assessment used. City Administrator Tom Letsche indicated he would review their questions and provide further information at a later time. 

The council approved a 30-day extension on a nuisance abatement notice for Sara Jones regarding a car in her yard and approved the carry-over of six hours of unused vacation time for Rob Stines. Additionally, the lease agreement with the Cherokee Aviation Authority was approved.

Council member Dave Wilberding requested a raise in salary for Parks Superintendent Duane Mummert after noting additional duties he has been completing, particularly regarding the Skate Park. Mummert is already slated to receive a 3% raise on par with other city employees, and Wilberding advocated for providing him with an additional 5%, giving him a total 8% salary raise. The issue was tabled until the meeting on June 11.

An update on the MHI land sale was provided by council member John Nitz, who explained that he had been in lengthy discussions with representatives from the state about the purchase price, assessment and salability of the property. He indicated the state would provide further information in two weeks.

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