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Watsontown borough workers installed a removable rubber mat, new doghouse and new food and water bowls in the municipal kennel on Tuesday, following a complaint lodged at Monday's council meeting.

WATSONTOWN — The borough kennel was described as “appalling” and “unacceptable” by residents who voiced their concerns to Borough Council members Monday night. Their complaints led to improvements at the kennel Tuesday.

Those same residents also are concerned about protocol for lost animals in the borough.

Theresa Mook approached the council about the poor conditions of the kennel after visiting the pen over the Thanksgiving weekend. The borough keeps the kennel to house lost or stray animals until the animal enforcement officer can be reached for assistance.

On the Friday following Thanksgiving, Mook said a lost dog was picked up by another area resident, Tom Yannaccone. Yannaccone couldn’t keep the dog at his home because he has dogs of his own, so he took it to the borough kennel and placed it inside. He said he contacted the police department and spoke to an officer to report the found dog. After he placed it in the kennel, he said he called again and left a voice message for the officer, letting him know he had put the animal inside the kennel.

He reported there was no lock on the kennel. Instead, it was tied shut with string.

Mook, who works with a dog rescue organization, said when she went to check on the dog later Friday, she found it without food or water and in a kennel that was dirty and unsanitary. She passed pictures of the kennel around to council members.

“There were burlap bags on the ground that had mold on them and polyfill, which a dog could eat and die,” she said. “The floor of the kennel was stone.”

Mook said the floor should be made of something that can be sanitized and the animals should have stainless steel bowls. She was disappointed that the dog only had a box with a tarp over the top rather than a doghouse.

“I just want to know what we can do to straighten things out,” Mook said.

Dennis Derr, chief of police, said there was an obvious miscommunication between Yannaccone and the officer on duty that day. He acknowledged that the officer admitted to having spoken to Yannaccone, but never retrieved the voice mail and therefore didn’t know the dog was in the kennel. Derr said he didn’t know why the dog didn’t have food.

“I know there is dog food because we just had to buy some after the last dog that was there for a couple of hours,” he said.

Derr said there is a protocol the department follows for lost and stray animals, which includes trying to locate the owner through the dog license, if there is one. However, if the county offices are closed for the weekend or a holiday, there is little that can be done. After this last incident, Derr said he issued a memo to officers telling them not to put dogs in the kennel until it is fixed.

Harriet Miller, council president, said she was unaware of the condition of the kennel.

“I don’t have a dog, but if I did, I wouldn’t want it there,” she said. “Some changes will be made.”

Other council members agreed. The board gave the go-ahead for the maintenance crew to purchase the items necessary to fix up the kennel, including a removable rubber mat that can be used as flooring, new bowls and a dog house. This work was done Tuesday.

“It was just a miscommunication,” said Miller. “Let’s hope it doesn’t happen again.”

In other business, Mitch Phillips asked the board to consider removing the two-hour parking limit on spaces adjacent to his rental properties along East Brimmer Avenue. Phillips said ever since the borough changed the parking regulations along the north side of the street, his tenants have nowhere to park that is close to their home.

“It used to be only on the south side,” he said. “We have four tenants who have to park and walk from down by the river.”

Mayor David Hontz suggested removing the two-hour parking limit, but Derr was quick to point out that the solution has drawbacks.

“You have to remember that once you remove those signs, it opens up parking for anyone, not just the people who live there,” he said.

Harry Hefty, council vice president, said the parking was made two-hour after merchants in the area complained about people parking in those spots for long periods of time, limiting the spots available for customers.

“We solved a problem for one set of people, but created new problems for a new set of people,” Hefty said.

The council agreed to review potential solutions to the problem and discuss the issue again at the next committee meeting.

The members approved a tentative 2010 budget totaling $4.19 million. Taxes will remain at 14.25 mills in the new year, with 7.52 earmarked for debt relief and 6.73 for the general fund. There will be a 4 percent increase in electric rates.

The next committee meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 21 in the municipal building.

-- Jerri Brouse is a freelance writer who lives in Lewisburg. E-mail comments to scoop@ptd.net.

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