Perryville officials delay voting on wild goose chase

Perryville's mayor and two town commissioners failed to act Tuesday on a proposal to hire a commercial service to drive away Canada geese from two town parks, after the mayor objected to moving so quickly.

Commissioner Barbara Brown said Geese Police, a franchised service with locations in 13 Eastern and Midwestern states, is needed to clear the birds from the town's Community Park and Ice House Park.

But Mayor Jim Eberhart said the town had not received a concrete proposal for the service and more discussion is needed involving all four of the commissioners, two of whom were absent Tuesday.

The projected cost of the service is $6,400.

"This is a health hazard," Brown said, referring to the geese droppings that pile up on the ground and wash into waterways, damaging aquatic ecosystems.

She said the town could be held liable if any children suffered ill effects from the waste while playing on the fields; although the Humane Society of the U.S. states on its website "Research has not found any significant health threats from goose feces. However, people want to avoid contact with any animal feces and abundant deposits on playing fields and in high traffic areas make that difficult."

"In some places, geese may cross roads or forage near roadsides, creating a potential traffic hazard," the Humane Society adds.

Brown said Geese Police, which has affiliates in Maryland, uses humane methods to herd geese away from any location where they are congregating. Geese Police representatives visit the site in question multiple times a day, using trained border collies to encourage the geese to move along.

"This is done to give the geese the illusion that there are several predators at this location and that there is no set time that is safe for them to be there," Geese Police officials state on the organization's website

Nesting season attack

Geese Police would be in Perryville from March to May. Brown said they should get started as soon as possible before the geese begin nesting in the parks and harass passersby in protecting their broods.

"It's important we catch the nesting season, and that's now," she said.

A budget amendment needed to pay for Geese Police was one of five amendments packaged in Resolution 2014-07 that was brought up at Tuesday's Perryville meeting, from which Commissioners Raymond Ryan III and Alan Fox were absent. Eberhardt said Ryan was out of town and Fox was ill.

The mayor declared he would not vote for Geese Police, objecting that a budget amendment was not proper without a formal proposal or a discussion among all four commissioners.

"We have no proposal or anything, and now we're doing it by budget amendments," he said.

Brown noted the Geese Police matter came up during a recent town work session in late February.

Where to next?

The mayor was also concerned about the geese crowding neighboring locations such as golf courses or the grounds of the Perry Point VA Medical Center after they leave the parks.

Brown said town officials cannot control where the geese go once they are pushed out of the parks.

The mayor and commissioners voted on all five budget amendments within the resolution and the resolution failed, 2-1. Brown cast the lone vote in favor of the resolution.

There has long been debate if border collies, who bark, menace and chase but don't physically attack the birds, provide a permanent solution.

Geese control services say the dogs are a proven method, but another humane treatment organization, called GeesePeace, says on its website that sterilization and/or nest disturbance and removal are most effective control.

The organization notes that for border collies to be effective, they have to harass the geese from the water, usually standing on kayaks or similar craft, as well as on land.

Commissioner Michelle Linkey moved to "table" action on the Geese Police amendment "to get more concrete information on the process" of removing the geese.

Special meeting likely

Frederick Suss man, the town attorney, said the commissioners could schedule a special meeting to vote on the amendment. It could be held before a scheduled March 18 work session begins, although a date for the special meeting must still be set.

The attorney walked Linkey through the procedure of getting the remaining budget amendments back for consideration during Tuesday's meeting.

That came through several motions which were approved 2-1 – Brown cast the dissenting vote.

Brown also voted against taking up the Geese Police amendment during a special session.

"Hopefully the weather has delayed the egg laying for a bit," she said.

The mayor and two commissioners present Tuesday voted 2-1 in favor of the remaining amendments; Brown dissented.

Town Administrator Denise Breder noted via e-mail Wednesday that there were not enough votes Tuesday to amend the budget, so all amendments must be decided during the special meeting.

The other four amendments include additional funds to cover overtime earned by Department of Public Works staffers while they were clearing snow and funds for an "emergency repair" of a mixer motor in a tank at the town wastewater treatment plant.

Also included is an amend to reconcile savings in state unemployment tax payments after the rate had been reduced for 2014 and the use of local impact grant funds from Hollywood Casino Perryville to cover the repair of a Cole Street sewer main, town officials said.

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