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Citizen complaints drive Crawford town meeting

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Trustees for the Town of Crawford spent a good majority of their meeting last week hearing and discussing issues brought up by concerned citizens.

Resident Trudy Mikus brought forth a concern that emergency service personnel are unable to find her home. Her address is technically on Greenwood Avenue, but her home, and the other four homes of her neighbors, is actually located on an unnamed private drive. She related that the last three times she or a neighbor has called for an ambulance, the EMTs have been unable to locate the homes on the private drive.

"The ambulance cannot find my neighbor or us. It can be dangerous. It hasn't been yet, but it could be," she told the trustees.

She called the North Fork Ambulance Association, who passed her off to Delta County Dispatch, who told her to take the issue up with the Town of Crawford, she explained.

"I think the only solution would be if we gave a name to the private drive," she said. On the town's plat, and on Google Maps, the private drive is labeled as Youngs Drive. Public works director Bruce Bair agreed that changing the name of the street would be the easiest solution. He also noted that a handful of other neighborhoods in town face a similar issue.

Trustee Chris Johnson asked Mikus to get together with her neighbors and brainstorm a solution, or bring a potential name change back to the council for adoption. "Well, I think it should be taken up with the ambulance people," she replied. "They should know where these homes are."

An audience member noted that ambulance personnel is all volunteer, and the EMTs typically use Google maps or another GPS service to find addresses. Since Google maps is listed incorrectly, Mikus was directed to update her address on Google, and hopefully that will solve the problem. Mikus agreed to start there.

Next up to speak was Liz Kelley, a fairly new resident to town, who was met with laughs when she asked, "I want to know where our dog ordinance stands."

Dogs running at large and barking complaints have long been a source of frustration with both residents and town officials and staff. The problem is that the Town of Crawford has no teeth to enforce their ordinances, as they have no animal control officer on staff, no money to hire one, no police force in town to uphold the laws (county sheriff's deputies only respond to calls of vicious dogs), and no municipal court to charge offenders.

In response to Kelley's question, Trustee Chriss Watters told her, "We've just now appointed you the animal control officer," to which she quickly retorted, "Perfect, sign me up," and an audience member chimed in, "Somebody get her a badge!"

Joking aside, Kelley expressed frustration at the issue of residents allowing their dogs to roam town. She said she keeps her own dogs in her backyard, and her dogs, reacting as dogs do, "go crazy" when other dogs-at-large roam the streets near her home. The current ordinance for the town states that owners must keep their animals quiet or face fines, "but I'll be damned if I get fined for my dogs barking because other dogs are hanging out at my house," she told trustees. Not only do dogs at large cause problems for residents who are trying to corral their animals, but there are also safety and sanitary issues at stake, she said.

One person quipped that in order to solve the problem, Kelley's family would have to move to a town that actually has enforceable ordinances in place. Mayor Gofforth told Kelley the only thing the town can do at this point is to send a warning letter to the offenders; she asked Kelley to gather the names and addresses of offenders, which Kelley promised to do.

"I have an option for you, ma'am," said Trustee John Paton. "If you can present to the council that the council take up making a municipal court so we can effectively enforce ordinances in this town, then we could resolve your problem."

Trustee Hetty Todd related that it used to be a law in Crawford that if there was a nuisance or loose dog in town, it was the responsibility of the mayor to take the animal outside of town limits and shoot it. It wasn't until just a few years ago, under the mayorship of Jim Crook, that that was taken off the town's code books. Mayor Gofforth seemed relieved she wouldn't have to handle Kelley's complaint in such a manner.

In other business, Mayor Gofforth had asked resident Tony Vervloet to look into solutions to combat the odors, and the complaints about the odors, in the town's public restroom at the park. Vervloet presented the council with what he called an easy, affordable solution. "It's an outhouse, so it's supposed to smell -- it's a rule," he joked, before presenting the trustees with information on the Ventilated Improved Pit (VIP) latrine system. A four-inch-wide plastic pipe is installed into the septic tank and stretches up about 11 feet above the roof line. The height of the pipe allows the wind to draw odors out through the pipe, instead of holding odor within the outhouse. The black plastic pipe will also catch the sun's heat, allowing for convection currents to draw odor out as well. The system doesn't get rid of all the odors, but it is cleaner and much improved, he explained.

"It should reduce the smell in there, at a minimal cost," he said. The council will look into the cost of the system and discuss it further at a later date.

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