A recurring discussion about “backyard chickens” came back home to roost in Burlington this week as city staff members reported back to Burlington’s city council on the projected personnel costs of a plan to let residents raise small flocks of chickens at home.
The council had previously called for workup of these staffing expenses when its members received a proposed ordinance that the city’s planning department had drawn up at the council’s behest. Under this ordinance, residents would be able to keep up to four hens in clean, well-maintained chicken coops that meet certain specifications. The ordinance empowers the city’s code enforcement officers to inspect and issue permits for these proposed hen houses. It also confers new duties on Burlington’s animal services department, including the investigation of any nuisance and animal cruelty complaints related to chickens.
In response to the council’s request about staffing expenses, Rachel Kelly, the city’s assistant manager for administrative services, presented a cost and workload analysis when the council convened its latest monthly work session on Monday.
Kelly told the council that the ordinance’s anticipated burden on code enforcement would be well within the capabilities of this unit’s staff.
“We’re unsure of how many permit requests we will be getting,” she added, “but we assume the volume will be manageable.”
Kelly acknowledged that the situation is much different for the city’s animal services department, which she insisted is already stretched thin by its existing responsibilities.
“Animal services cannot feasibly enforce a new ordinance at current staffing levels,” she explained. “The need for another animal services officer is not a result of the proposed chicken ordinance but a result of being at maximum capacity to operate as they stand.”
Kelly added that the city’s two animal control officers are currently struggling to keep up with the calls that they get from the city’s residents. She said that their workload has become especially onerous over the past four months as the city’s police department has divested itself of the animal-related calls it had previously handled.
Kelly told the council that an additional officer would ease the pressure on the existing staff in animal services and provide a third set of hands to deal with any chicken-related calls that the city gets in the future. Kelly went on to present a tentative budget request for $66,275 to cover the salary and benefits for a new animal services officer as well as a vehicle and some equipment for the new hire to use in the field. In subsequent years, the cost of this new position would drop to $52,573 to cover the expense of salary and benefits alone.
Other March 4 edition Burlington news coverage from The Alamance News/alamancenews.com:
Rec director recommends against adding disc golf to city’s municipal golf course: https://alamancenews.com/possibility-of-disc-golf-course-being-added-at-citys-traditional-golf-course-rec-director-recommends-against/
Council not interested in mayor’s suggestion to ditch traditional auditing firm: https://alamancenews.com/burlington-mayor-gets-no-traction-with-council-members-on-suggestion-to-end-citys-contract-with-auditing-firm/
City council endorses plan to chip in $10,000 as part of $3.9 million renovation of Lakeside Mill: https://alamancenews.com/city-agrees-to-help-subsidize-co-s-plans-for-lakeside-mill-renovation/
Grant for new firefighters will ultimately cost city taxpayers – but not for three years, so council gives go-ahead for city to pursue grant: https://alamancenews.com/city-seeks-federal-funds-to-hire-more-firefighters/
And from Feb. 26 online story: Burlington police seek public’s help in finding nine suspects: https://alamancenews.com/wanted-burlington-police-dept-seeks-publics-help-in-locating-9-suspects/