ONTARIO — Multiple Ontario City Council members said they have received calls from their constituents about deer overpopulation and reports of coyotes.
One month after resident Adrienne Ruhe asked council to address residents feeding deer “as if they’re pets,” council members read an ordinance prohibiting the feeding of deer on Wednesday.
Council members did not discuss the first reading of the ordinance that proposes to prohibit feeding deer, but will discuss any questions at the May 17 caucus meeting at 6:30 p.m. Council president Eddie Gallo said he welcomes public comment about the ordinance in the 7 p.m. council meeting May 17 or June 7.
As the ordinance is currently written, it would make purposefully feeding deer a minor misdemeanor. This does not include deer eating from bird feeders, gardens, or eating fruit or nuts that have fallen on the ground.
“In this section, ‘food’ means corn, fruit, oats, hay, wheat, alfalfa, salt or mineral blocks, grain, vegetables, human food scraps, commercially-sold wildlife feed, birdseed or livestock feed,” the ordinance reads.
The ordinance also says residents will not be punished for food placed “in good faith” for domestic animals on their properties.
At the April 5 council meeting, Ruhe said her young children and dog have come face-to-face with an aggressive deer while playing outside. She said she was concerned deer were also bringing coyotes to the neighborhood, which have killed some small dogs.
“Our coyotes have been bad this year, we catch them on our video cameras outside our house,” she said. “They killed and ate my neighbor’s little rat terrier dog.”
Ontario City Council is scheduled to vote on the ordinance prohibiting the feeding of deer on June 7.
Also in Wednesday’s meeting, council members passed an ordinance amending business signage rules.
Zoning Inspector Michael Morton said the major changes of the ordinance included no illuminated signs allowed in residential areas and changes to banner rules.
“There aren’t any illuminated signs in residential areas right now, we just put that there in case someone applies for a home occupation or has a residential area across the street,” Morton said.
Banners and flags that are attached to flagpoles or a building facade must be setback equal to the flagpoles’ height to avoid property damage in case of storms.
The new ordinance also states banners that are tattered or displaying out-of-date promotions must be removed or replaced. Businesses near U.S. 30 may have additional larger signs so visitors can see them from the road, but must abide by sign permit rules listed in the ordinance.
Any business owner who wants exceptions to the new rules will need to file a variance request with the planning commission.
In a utilities and economic development meeting Wednesday, Mayor Randy Hutchinson said the city’s billing software company was bought out, so he suggested the city switch to Muni-Link.
Council will discuss this proposed switch at a future date. The utilities committee suggested raising administration fees from $1.25 to $2 per payment for city water bills.
“The monthly fees are higher than our current system, so we are giving the recommendation to increase the administration fees,” utilities committee chair Kyle Webb said.
“Muni-Link allows live updates, so if there’s a water disconnect and the person pays their bill in the last minute, they’ll get an update and be able to stop that.”
Hutchinson also told council members that an Environmental Protection Agency inspection revealed multiple issues with the 67-year-old tower near Golden Corral. The City of Mansfield will put out demolition bids for the tower, which currently serves only a handful of businesses.
The water tower has been operated by the City of Mansfield since 1956. Hutchinson said the City of Ontario considered taking over operation of the water tower to provide for economic development projects, but that the EPA inspection revealed the water tower wasn’t equipped for additional lines and water pumps in its current condition.
Also in Wednesday’s meeting:
-- Council voted to enroll in the Ohio Department of Transportation road salt program for 2023-24.
-- Hutchinson said he is discussing a possible cell tower near Industrial Commerce Park on 4th Street or on Stumbo Road. The development could potentially bring in $1,000 of monthly revenue to the city.
-- Hutchinson said letters have gone out for residents affected by upcoming smoke studies on the city’s north side.
-- The City said the deadline to apply for the Miss Ontario pageants, including the first Little Miss and Junior Miss Ontario pageants, is May 5. More information can be found online.