More than three dozen local hunters were on hand at the Litchfield City Council meeting on Thursday, Sept. 7, to encourage the city to continue to allow hunting on city property north of 16th Avenue.
The show of support came after Morgan Laurie, who lives near city property where deer hunting occurs, asked the council to discontinue the policy of allowing hunting due to safety concerns caused by too many hunters using the property. Five hunters who utilize the property spoke to the council about why Laurie’s request should be denied.
Brent Germann told the council that his property sits on the entrance of the silt basin to the lake and was purchased because his family enjoys hunting and had a desire to do so on land that was close and safe. Germann said that he has dealt with trespassers for as long as he has lived there and that most issues can be resolved by talking to them in a sensible manner. He added that there have not been any accidents or injuries reported despite the safety concerns expressed by Laurie and said that if there were any altercations or issues with hunters, they should have been reported to the proper authorities. Germann also produced a petition with 129 signatures encouraging the city to allow hunting in these areas.
Ron Harper spoke to the council about his lifelong residency in Litchfield and said he had hunted on the property for the last 30 years. He said that if hunters adhere to city and state rules, then there should be no issue and that the right to use the land shouldn’t be taken away just because a select few don’t follow the rules.
Dan Hough spoke about the problem of too many hunters, breaking down the area by square miles per hunter by his estimation and saying that the area was not too congested. Hough said at most 32 hunters utilize the area near the silt basin and Five-Mile Lake and most who do hunt there know each other and give each other plenty of space. He encouraged the council not to make a knee jerk reaction to one or two complaints.
Bob Rogers said that he had often hunted on city owned property during his 65 years of hunting and that he did not believe that those who followed the rules should be penalized just for wanting to hunt. He emphasized that taking away hunting in the area would be unfortunate for not only those who currently use the grounds, but also for the next generation of hunters as well. Rogers also stated that the hunting season is just 12 days, seven for deer hunting and five for turkey hunting, which is already much more limited than fishermen. In regard to safety concerns, Rogers mentioned that fishermen and boaters have either died or been injured, yet they are still allowed to do those activities.
Aaron Sharp was also slated to speak, but told the council that many of his thoughts had been conveyed by the other speakers who want to see the land available for those who cannot afford private hunting grounds.
One speaker did speak for better supervision of the area. Richard Watson said that he had been living near city property for almost 35 years and that he was not against hunting, but something needed to be done. Watson said that he has found bullet holes in his garage and in his house and that he has suffered property damage from vehicles coming onto his land.
He added that the problems seem to get worse every year and that some of the biggest offenders are individuals from outside the area, like Wood River, Decatur, Royal Lakes and other communities outside Montgomery County. Watson suggested that the city tear down a building where parties and trouble has occurred called the “Brunk Shed” and that deer stands should be supervised more closely.
Mayor Steve Dougherty said that the city would do more research into the matter, but were having a hard time finding another municipality that allowed anything other than bow hunting on city property. Mayor Dougherty said that the difficult part is not only finding a solution, but finding one that is enforceable.
Hough asked if there was a time frame for a decision to be made, saying that some hunting permits have already been requested and some hunters could be affected if hunting is no longer allowed. Mayor Dougherty said that a solution couldn’t be made that night legally, but the city would act quickly on the matter.
In other business, the council also heard from William Hicks, who was on hand to ask the council to increase the sidewalk rates by $1 per square foot, from $1.50 to $2.50. Hicks said that he believed raising the rate would allow for long awaited sidewalk projects to be done sooner.
Mayor Dougherty said that the current rate of $1.50 covers costs of concrete and materials, but doesn’t cover labor costs for the property owners. He added that some changes the city has made has freed up street crews to do more sidewalk projects in the near future.
Mayor Dougherty also created a buildings and grounds ad hoc committee to investigate ways the current Litchfield Library building can be put to use once the current library moves out. Aldermen Ray Kellenberger, Tim Wright and Mark Brown would be added to the committee, with Mayor Dougherty saying that members of the public would be added as well.
During regular business, the council approved a motion to contract with Adam’s Painting of Gillespie to paint the Litchfield Fire Department’s main firehouse for a cost of $4,500, a motion to contract with Budd’s Paint Service for the beach house building floors for an amount not to exceed $9,875, a motion to purchase largemouth bass from fountain bluff hatchery at a cost not to exceed $4,750 ($1.75 per fish) and a motion to approve a bid from Joiner Sheet Metal and Roofing of Greenville for the city hall roof and HVAC renovation project for an amount not to exceed $154,379.
The council also accepted an offer of $100,000 plus two months rental ($16,000) from Beelman Truck Co. for damage to the street department’s 2012 Tymco street sweeper and to replace the damaged sweeper with a 2016 Tymco sweeper from E.J. Equipment at a cost not to exceed $139,214. The damage occurred in June when a Beelman dump truck lost its trailer and the trailer fell on top of the city’s street sweeper.
The council would enter into closed session at 7:04 p.m. and would pass a motion to approve an annexation agreement and settlement. The council will meet again on Thursday, Sept. 21, at Corwin Hall at 6:30 p.m.