August 22, 2014 10:36:45 AM
Starkville aldermen will let the city's informal cemetery board decide recommendations on how to curb a growing trend of irresponsible pet owners not cleaning up their animals' waste after the board took no action on the matter Tuesday.
Several residents spoke out against an increasing amount of students that take their dogs to University Drive's Oddfellows and Brush Arbor cemeteries and allow them to relieve themselves without properly disposing of the waste. A full list of cemetery board members was not available from city staff as the group is comprised of lot owners and is independent of Starkville's bureaucracy, but aldermen Tuesday said the committee is split between banning pets from those areas or installing new waste receptacles and signage outlining park rules.
The issue of irresponsible pet owners allowing their animals to defecate in public lots highlights the fact that more trash receptacles - for garbage, pet waste or other materials - are needed along the University Drive-Russell Street corridor near the Cotton District's large student population, Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker and Ward 5 Alderman Scott Maynard said Thursday.
A Thursday meeting identified a way Starkville could handle both issues.
Walker and city staff confirmed the city has about $15,000 in a cemetery line-item fund for this current fiscal year. A proposal calling for new signage and garbage cans at the cemetery is expected to be sent to its committee, which Walker said should meet Tuesday.
The city can fabricate basic signage, Mayor Parker Wiseman said this week, but the Greater Starkville Development Partnership usually facilitates the purchase of more-detailed and ornate signs, like downtown's way-finding markers.
Similar signage could be installed at the city's third public cemetery, Oddfellow's Miss. Highway 182 location with the money city staff identified, Walker said.
Funds could also be earmarked later for expanded placement of garbage cans through the Cotton District and growing Russell Street corridor, he said.
"If everybody's agreeable, we can go ahead, take that money and make these purchases; however, none of that is set in place. It will definitely purchase several trash cans, but not the amount we need for the whole Cotton District," he said. "The context of that area is transitioning to a denser, more-vibrant neighborhood with more pedestrian activity. With all of that additional activity comes the need for increased city services and resident responsibilities."
Walker, who lives near the heart of the student-dominated Cotton District, began purchasing waste bags for the area out of his own pocket after funds from a city grant were expended. The funding identified Thursday by city staff could help replenish that line item in the future, he said.
"Jason made a great point that the cemetery is getting the focus here, but the reality is through that whole corridor, you have a large concentration of apartments, many of which allow pets. This is a good opportunity, regardless of the cemetery decision, to engage the residents of that area and provide some guidance on pet ownership and responsibility," said Maynard, whose ward is adjacent to Walker's Cotton District area. "Even if we completely ban dogs from cemeteries, they'll still have to go somewhere else."
"I give students the benefit of the doubt," he added. "Given the opportunity to be responsible, 9 out of 10 will act in a responsible fashion. If trash receptacles are available, I feel like a majority of students will use them. Right now, we simply need more of these in that entire area."
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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