Trustees also are thinking about using home rule to address speeding, property maintenance, high grass and noise .
By IAN HILL
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
AUSTINTOWN -- It sounds like a bad political joke that some Stanford Avenue residents wouldn't find funny:
Q: What is green, 6 feet long, and has influence over the Austintown township trustees?
A: Spencer the caiman.
Caimans are Central and South American reptiles and are members of the crocodile family. Spencer is one of two caimans kept as pets in the Stanford Avenue home of Carl Fisher.
Spencer escaped from the home in August after falling from a second-story window. He was captured by Fisher and two police officers. Some Stanford Avenue residents have since expressed fear that Spencer might escape again and attack their families.
Tonight, township officials are hoping that trustees will hold their first reading of an ordinance that could make it illegal to keep exotic animals such as Spencer as pets. Township Administrator Michael Dockry said the ordinance was created in response to Spencer's escape.
"We want to correct the problem now," Trustee Richard Edwards said. "[Residents] want action very quickly."
The ordinance would be the first created by the trustees under home rule, a limited form of self-government they approved March 11. Two readings are needed to pass home-rule ordinances.
Writing the ordinance
Dockry said he asked Assistant Mahoning County Prosecutor Karen Markulin Gaglione to write the ordinance in early June. He hopes Gaglione will have the ordinance written for tonight's meeting.
Gaglione could not be reached to comment. Dockry added that he wasn't sure if a grandfather clause exists in home rule that would allow Fisher to keep Spencer.
Dockry also said he asked Gaglione to write home-rule ordinances addressing property maintenance, high grass and noise. He said he expects some of the ordinances to be similar to home-rule ordinances that have been approved in Boardman, where residents are prohibited from keeping exotic animals as pets in residential areas.
Residents who violate the ordinance can be fined as much as $1,000. Dockry noted that $1,000 is the maximum fine permitted through home-rule ordinances.
He added that he asked Gaglione to write the ordinances in response to common complaints made to township officials. The property maintenance ordinance would allow township officials to cite the owners of dilapidated structures.
Also, property owners who let their grass grow to a height of more than a foot could be fined under the high-grass ordinance. In the past, township officials have paid to cut grass taller than a foot on private property. The work was then billed to the property owner through their taxes.
Dockry also said that the noise ordinance would be similar to the noise ordinance in Boardman, which prohibits residents from playing stereos that can be heard up to 100 feet away in occupied residential or business facilities. The stereo prohibition is enforced between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.
Dockry added that trustees are talking about creating ordinances that would regulate transient vendors.
Trustees also may create an ordinance that would allow the township to collect fines from people who commit minor misdemeanors, such as speeding.