Oneida Council discusses longer terms, water pumps and feral cats
ONEIDA — The Oneida Common Council discussed new water pumps and the issue of feral cats during Tuesday’s meeting. In addition, in the interest of changing the term limits for the mayor and council, a mandatory referendum will be on this year’s November ballot.
The council was unanimously in favor of local laws that, if adopted by the public’s vote, would extend the term limits of both the mayor and all six councilors from two to four years. In addition, the terms for council seats would be staggered: Wards 1, 3, and 5 would be extended first beginning in 2024 and Wards 2, 4, and 6 would begin in 2026. The term limit for the mayor would go into effect January 1, 2024.
“Two years goes by in the blink of an eye,” explained Oneida Mayor Helen Acker. “First year or so, it is a learning process. The second year you get into reelection mode if you decide to keep your position.” This can make it difficult to get projects going and keep up momentum, Acker said, adding that it’s more difficult when turnover is constant. “The public will now have the opportunity to keep things as they are, or, change to the four year terms if they desire.”
Regarding three agenda items relating to revisions to a Lake Street Pump Station capital project, Acker explained that the situation there is in need of upgrades. Three pumps, none younger than 50 years old, are responsible for pumping water into the city when levels get low, she explained. Of those three pumps, only one is fully functional. She described the other two as “seized up” and “burned up,” respectively.
It has been a dry season this year, causing more pumping than usual, Acker continued. Many times when the public receives a notice of discolored water, it’s because the pumps have been turned on, she explained. Each time the pumps are turned on, it costs $3,000 in electricity — this system also needs replacing, she said.
The council accepted the terms of the capital project revisions, which include buying three new pumps. The project requests called for an additional $2 million.
Because of supply chain issues, the city won’t likely see the new pumps until the end of 2023, Acker said, adding that it’s important to get going on this now. In the meantime, the water department is looking for a used one to have as a backup. “If something breaks down [on the functioning pump], we get bits and pieces from the other two, but right now it’s very difficult finding any parts to fix it. And that’s mainly because of the age,” Acker explained.
The Community Cats Committee (CCC), a subcommittee of the Oneida Improvement Committee, has been making progress in their goal to reduce the feral cat population in the city. Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) is their chosen strategy. Asking for funds from the city to help expedite the volunteer group’s efforts, CCC member Christine Robertson spoke to the council.
Last year, when the CCC was just forming and laying down their ground work, volunteers successfully TNRed three feral cats, Robertson reported. This year, after just beginning in June, 10 feral cats have already received the procedure.
The faster more cats can get sterilized, the better, Robertson stressed. One unspayed female cat can produce 36 offspring in just 16 months, she explained. A primary obstacle for the committee is funding, which is needed to set aside more appointments with their partner vet, who offers a discount for spaying, neutering, rabies vaccination, ear clipping to mark sterilized cats, and an overnight stay after the procedure is done. A female costs $129, a male, $89.
It’s estimated that five to seven feral cat colonies are in the city, based on the CCCs research, Robertson said. A colony can contain anywhere from 10 to 25 cats, varying. The CCC is getting close to going through at least one colony by the end of the year.
“We know that this program in general is justified in science. These types of programs have been in place nationally, internationally, for years. Many are actually locally funded, some actually involve paid staff because it’s a community issue. [TNR programs generally] are endorsed by a multitude of national organizations out there as well as hundreds of state, regional, and local government agencies,” Robertson said.
If the CCC TNRed three cats per month till the end of the year, that would cost around $2,000, which is what they are asking the city to provide. “The funding itself that we’re talking about, it’s purely for veterinary costs — not volunteer time, not supplies, not transport, not any of that stuff,” Robertson added. So far, to date, the CCC has raised $900 dollars through their own efforts and more fundraising is being planned.
Acker expressed her concern for how long this program will need to continue and requested to know what kinds of grants the CCC has applied for. Robertson admitted that making a major impact city-wide will take some time. A set timeframe was unknown, but it was speculated that it could take up to four years to make an impact in the city.
To learn more about the Community Cats Community, visit their page on Facebook.
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