City ponders regulations on ‘vicious dogs’

By: By Sarah Willets - [email protected]
Wayne Horne
Leory Rising
John Cantey
Bruce Davis

LUMBERTON — The Lumberton City Council is considering regulating the ownership of certain breeds of dogs.

The discussion comes after several dog attacks on children in Lumberton, including one in which a 7-year-old boy was killed.

The council discussed crafting a vicious breed ordinance during its annual planning retreat on Wednesday and authorized City Attorney Holt Moore to draft a sample ordinance for consideration. Currently, dogs in Lumberton are only deemed vicious after an attack.

The council is looking to Edenton for a model. Under Edenton’s policy, certain breeds — bull terrier, staffordshire bull terrier, American pit bull, American staffordshire terrier, rottweiler and chow chow — are deemed dangerous. Owners are required to register the dog with the city, have liability insurance and confine them to a pen or kennel at all times. Failure to comply can result in the animal being seized.

“When you start requiring the owners of these dogs to have insurance … if you require registration and you require chips, a certain percentage of these dogs are going to go away,” City Manager Wayne Horne said.

The council weighed passing such in ordinance during its retreat last year, but the measure never moved forward.

The council also considered information from on dog bite fatalities across the nation from 2005 to 2014, which shows that 62.3 percent of fatal bites were inflicted by dogs identified as pit bulls.

On March 26, a Lumberton 4-year-old was bitten by a family dog on 11th Street and severely injured. An incident report did not identify the breed. Seven-year-old Talan West died after being attacked by a pit bull near his Odum Road home on Jan. 24 — the third fatal dog attack in Robeson County since 2012.

“If we can save one child from being killed by a vicious dog in this city, then it is our job to do that,” said Councilman Leroy Rising.

Council members had plenty of questions as to how the ordinance would be crafted and enforced.

“I’m going to take up for the dogs. It’s not the dogs, it’s the owner’s fault, really,” said Councilman John Cantey, who owns a pit bull.

Mayor Bruce Davis said the council’s consideration should be in “protection of the public more so than in the defense of the dogs.”

The retreat was initially planned to continue today, but the council, which met at City Hal, finished discussion of all agenda items on Wednesday.

In other business, the council:

— Amended the city’s water policy so that water bills may be adjusted in the event of a residential leak. Customers can request an adjustment in their bill once a year with proof the leak was fixed promptly.

— Reviewed plans to build a new terminal at the Lumberton Regional Airport. The Airport Commission is hoping to receive a Department of Transportation grant for the new terminal, which would be 1,500 square feet larger than the current one. Becker Morgan Group has created a designed for the terminal and the county Economic Development Office. If the project moves forward, the city would contribute about $250,000 in addition to grant money and money from the county.

— Considered purchasing the Culp Building, a 100,000-square-foot building on a 17-acre site on West Fifth Street, adjacent to the airport. The building, built for Temptation Hosiery in 1970, is listed for sale for $275,000. If the city acquired the building, it could either be renovated for about $1.2 million, or demolished contingent on a grant. The council authorized staff to negotiate with the owner.

— Authorized city staff to obtain a cost estimate for converting all of Lumberton’s streets lights to LED fixtures. The city has already converted about 36 fixtures on Interstate 95, as well as some in residents’ yards that are difficult to service. Horne estimated full conversion would take about two years and cost about $1.5 million, but said the city would make its money back in savings in about nine years because the lights are more energy efficient and require less maintenance.

— Discussed policies for allotting Community Revitalization Funds. Moore told council members that, in accordance with city policy and policies set by the UNC School of Government, the money should be put toward public purposes rather than individuals.

— Considered new recreation fees, but took no action. Currently, the city charges participants in city recreation programs $10 per activity. The only change staff recommended was a $30 fee for tackle football. City staff also pitched an additional $10 fee for out-of-town participants and a $200 per day fee to rent a field. Individual fees, as well as policies for selling concessions, will be decided during budget talks.

— Authorized staff to get a cost estimate for a feasibility study on turning a nearly 700-acre area near Interstate 95 and U.S. 74 into an industrial park. The land is outside of the city’s limits and extraterritorial jurisdiction. Horne said there are other areas around that corridor that could be developed as industrial sites by extending utilities.

“This is not something you would do in 12 months,” he said. “This is something you would spend 24, 36 months developing.”

— Discussed plans for the old Lumberton water treatment plant on Water Street. City staff said an investor recently approached the city about purchasing the building, but declined to identify the investor or their intended use of the building.

— Discussed clarifying the city’s campaign sign ordinance, revising its building height limitations and consolidating its 18 zoning districts, but took no action.

— Heard from Planning Director Brandon Love about updating the city’s flood damage prevention ordinance. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is expected to release new floodplain maps soon, which could put some residents in a different zone and affect insurance rates.

— Discussed setting up an emergency back-up site for the city’s 911 communications as required by the state. City staff recommended an existing room at the Electrical Utilities Department for use during a disaster that wipes out communications at City Hall. The cost to renovate the room and equip it would be $217,042.

— Authorized a redesign of the city’s website that will include online registration and citizen request forms and the purchase of remote desktop services for 50 users.

— Heard from Public Works Director Rob Armstrong about efforts to map the city’s sewer infrastructure, sewer rehabilitation in the Lambeth Street area, the need for more water infrastructure on N.C. 211 West, and the possibility of extending sewer lines to carry leachate from the county landfill to the city’s treatment plant.

— Considered revisions to city-appointed boards and commissions. The terms of most appointees have expired and, according to council members and Davis, interest is low.

— Discussed using the former Lumberton Police Department on East Fifth Street for a combination of records retention and police operations.

— Heard a presentation by Moore on streamlining the council’s rules and policies into one ordinance.

— Heard from Horne that the City Hall’s air-conditioning system may need to be replaced.

Wayne Horne Horne

Leory Rising Rising

John Cantey Cantey

Bruce Davis Davis

By Sarah Willets

[email protected]

Sarah Willets can be reached at 910-816-1974 or on Twitter @Sarah_Willets.

Sarah Willets can be reached at 910-816-1974 or on Twitter @Sarah_Willets.