ORRINGTON, Maine — A proposed animal ordinance, which was created after a herd of cows roamed free last summer causing property damage and scaring people, was a hot issue at Monday’s annual town meeting.
The renegade cows spurred residents to pen the ordinance to ensure the town can take action and impound loose livestock, but it was local horse owners who took issue with the wording.
“It’s too vague,” resident Sharon Grey said.
The ordinance, which gained residents’ approval after a lengthy discussion, is a carbon copy of the one in effect in Brewer, Howard Grover, selectmen chairman, said during the meeting.
Under the new ordinance, the town “can hold them on the farm for seven days and then we can sell them,” he said.
The town received at least 96 complaints about cows and bulls that had gotten loose between May and August of last year, town documents say, and several residents voiced concerns at selectmen’s meetings.
The cattle reportedly caused about $5,400 in damage to nearby properties, and local farmer Herbert Henderson, who owned the livestock, has compensated those landowners. Henderson was issued several tickets for animal trespass and property damage at the time.
The town, however, was not reimbursed for renting fencing or the overtime expenses required to help Henderson round up his wandering cattle, and is being sued by Henderson for killing a bull on Aug. 23.
“We got burned,” Howard said.
Scott Welch, a Stump Lane resident, stood up at the meeting to say his property was damaged and that he and other neighbors woke up for 18 days with cows in their yards.
“The town was powerless to do anything,” he said.
Henderson has added a new fence to secure his animals.
The ordinance allows the animal control officer to capture and impound livestock that are running free, Carla Brown, the town’s animal control officer, told residents.
Under state law, “I couldn’t impound the animals,” she said. “With this we will.”
She assured residents that animal owners would be given a verbal warning the first time their livestock is found running free.
Once the animal is caught, contact with the owner must be made. After seven days in the impound yard, “such livestock may be disposed of by such agent in a humane manner prescribed by the State of Maine, or sold with all proceeds of said sale remanded to the town of Orrington,” the ordinance states.
Without the local ordinance, the town would be able only to issue animal trespass tickets, Brown said.
“This ordinance gives the town more local control,” Grover said.
During the meeting, residents also:
— Approved the 2009-10 combined school and town budget of approximately $8.96 million, which includes a town budget figure of $2,293,028, an increase of $191,847; $356,000 for Penobscot County taxes, a $6,278 increase; and $6,160,951 for the school budget, a $203,765 decrease.
— Agreed to purchase a new tanker truck for the Orrington Fire Rescue Department with $190,000 from the vehicle reserve fund, and using $300,000 in undesignated funds to repair the sand and salt shed.
— Accepted Pleasant Hill Lane as a town road and part of the Pine Hill Estates subdivision.
— Created a 100-foot setback for self-storage buildings along Route 15.
— Approved a 1,200-square-foot addition onto the historic town hall using $150,000 from the building reserve fund.
During local elections, also held Monday, incumbent Selectmen Christine Lavoie and Kevin Allcroft and school board incumbent Kevin Hanscom were re-elected to three-year terms.