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Schmidt steps in as Mayor, poultry tops first agenda

Fran Brownell
Re-elected Pratt City commissioners Gary Schmidt (right) and Don Peters (left) are sworn in by Pratt City Clerk Lou Kramer on Monday, January 13, at the Pratt City Hall commission chambers.
Schmidt was then elected by fellow commissioners to serve as Mayor of Pratt, replacing Doug Meyer who stepped down from that position.

Pratt City Commissioner Gary Schmidt took office as Mayor of Pratt on Monday, January 13, and more than 15 audience members attended the regular city commission meeting to air their opinions on the city ordinance which prohibits ducks and chickens in city limits. This first commission meeting in 2020 was moved from its normal schedule of the first Monday of the month to the second Monday because of state regulations relating to swearing-in of elected officials.

The discussion about whether or not chickens and ducks are legal within the city limits came after the official swearing-in by City Clerk Lou Kramer of re-elected commissioners Don Peters and Gary Schmidt, both to their second three-year terms, followed by changing-of-the-guard as Schmidt took office as Mayor and retiring Mayor Doug Meyer took Schmidt’s seat at the commission table.

Meyer nominated Schmidt for the mayoral position, seconded by Peters, with supporting votes of commissioners Jason Leslie and Zach Deeds, making the vote unanimous.

Regarding the controversial chicken issue, Pratt City Attorney Regina Probst set ground rules for respect during discussions, while stating there was misconception relating to the chicken issue.

“There was no attack on chickens,” Probst said.

She said that the law relating prohibiting chicken ownership in city limits has been in place in Pratt since 2001 or prior, before it was amended by city commissioners last November to include ducks.

“It’s not that we want to have a huge law enforcement presence in everybody’s back yard,” Probst said. “If you have chickens and you keep your chickens clean and your chickens are cared for and none of your neighbors are complaining about smells or noises or whatever, then, likely, law enforcement would have no purpose or reason to go to your home and no reason to cause citations.”

Pratt Police Chief Nate Humble said enforcement of the ordinance relating to poultry is complaint-driven, stating that officers only write citations after receiving complaints about backyard poultry.

Pratt residents Joe and Anita Mills, who live on North Iuka, were in attendance, seeking clarification on the chicken and duck ban.

Joe Mills said he had signed an online petition posted by Hannah Riner which requested the city to lift the ban on poultry ownership in Pratt city limits. Mills also said he had written to Pratt City Manager Bruce Pinkall and, during the meeting, Mills thanked Pinkall for his response which reflected the position that, as long as the chickens weren’t posing a problem resulting in complaints, there would be no reason for the family to be concerned.

Anita Twiner, not a city resident but the poultry superintendent for the Pratt County Fair, provided information about the health benefits of fresh eggs, hoping to encourage support for the city to lift the recent ban, and Pratt resident Brynn Jellison said the ducks she keeps in the backyard of her West 8th Street residence have become her pets, as well as providing eggs for the family.

Pratt businessman Rod Graham said there was unmeasurable value that raising chickens brings to the 4-H program. Graham also questioned the message he said was being sent to children about it “being OK to have chickens as long as you do not get caught.”

Darcia and Stan Killingsworth, who have had past citations, were also in attendance and addressed commissioners, stating that neighboring towns, including Kingman, Medicine Lodge, Great Bend and Salina allow chickens within their city limits.

Humble said there is currently there is one pending case in Pratt Municipal Court under the updated ordinance. This is a ticket issued to Willie Thorne at 821 S. Taylor because his neighbor, Harley Dancaster, continues to file complaints against his chickens and ducks.

Mayor Schmidt advised the group that commissioners would take the issue under advisement, but said he deemed it inappropriate for the city commission to take action at this time.

In other business, commissioners:

*voted unanimously to reappoint The Peoples Bank, Legacy Bank and First State Bank as Official City Depositories

*re-designated The Pratt Tribune as the official newspaper for the city

*approved the purchase of six steel poles for lighting Angood Field at Lemon Park where girls softball is played. The bid was awarded to Stanion Electric Wholesale of Pratt at $12,161.13. A second bid of $12,033.60 was submitted by Border States Electric in Lenexa. Pratt Director of Electric Utilities Jamie Huber recommended the bid be awarded to Stanion Electric, based on the city’s policy of five percent allowance for local companies.