Furloughs delayed by Des Moines City Council, but chickens are promoted

by Jack Mayne

The Des Moines City Council was expected to discuss furloughing city staff this year to save nearly $286,000 and moved the issue to the Council meeting of Feb. 11, but the Council did hear a proposal to allow chickens to be raised by residents.

The postponement came when Councilmember Rob Back said he wasn’t able to vote on the issue and used Councilmember privilege to remove the issue from the Council’s consent agenda.

The Council also on Thursday night (Feb. 4) got a routine update on Sound Transit’s proposed work on the Kent-Des Moines and Highline College station.

Budget balancing furloughs
The idea came about after the city’s attempt to levy a utility tax on water and sewer districts stirred up a controversy during last fall and winter’s biennial budget discussions. But the postponement of the tax led to need to cut the budget to match income.

The city agenda said City Manager Tony Piasecki and Human Resources Manager Maureen Murphy have “met several times with committee members from the non-represented employee groups to give staff the opportunity to have a voice in determining how furloughs would be applied. While no consensus was reached with the non-represented employee committees, it is still necessary to implement mandatory furlough days in order for the city to meet its budget constraints.”

The city said “alternatives to furloughs include further reductions in force by way of layoffs or additional cuts in services and programs.

The city said it had set a target cost reduction in 2016 personnel compensation for the general fund of $284,720 and several employees switching to the high deductible medical plan met that target.

“The rest of the 2016 savings will come from the furlough program,” the Council agenda document said.

That will apparently be discussed at the Feb. 11 meeting.

Fresh chickens and eggs
Resident Tom Sneath told the Des Moines Council Thursday night (Feb. 4) that he was asking the Council to make chickens legal in the city. In a letter to the Waterland Blog last week, Sneath said he was representing the a group called the Top Secret Chicken Society of Des Moines and outlined the their proposal.

“Our goal is to bring backyard chicken ordinances in line with all of the bordering cities,” Sneath wrote.

He told the Council and said in his letter to the Waterland ‘Blog that his group was “interested in providing fresh, natural, eggs for our families,” and said many in the city are already raising the chickens illegally.

“The word out there is ‘don’t ask don’t tell.’ As long as you care for your birds and don’t keep roosters or become a nuisance, the city really doesn’t have time to bother you.”

Sneath said he realized while chickens are “not on the big list of what’s wrong in this city, many chicken keepers want to come out of the shadows.”

The Waterland Blog asked City Manager Tony Piasecki what the regulations are currently.

“For most of our single-family residential zones, our code says the minimum lot size for chickens is 22,000 square feet,” he said in an email. “You can have up to 10 chickens and an additional 5 chickens for each 11,000 square feet of property over the minimum 22,000.

“The code does not specify that roosters are not allowed,” Piasecki said.

After Sneath outlined their proposal, resident Cheryl Johnson broke a “fresh egg” and showed it to the staff and Council, saying it was much fresher than any egg bought in a store, which she said were 30 days to six month old.

No furlough for Marina
Todd Powell of the Marina Association said the marina has its own funds and is self supporting and should have no effect on the city’s general fund and furloughs of the staff would cut staff availability beyond what is necessary to get needed work done. He also suggested that with employment opportunities growing, city and marina staff could seek other opportunities and their loss could harm the city and marina.

“Whatever benefit we would possibly get f rom a furlough could be erased completely by having to go through a period of rehiring and retraining and bringing a new staff member to speed if we lost one of the great staff we have now,” Powell said.

Resident Bill Linscott said the Council should look at how the furloughs are allocated, noting also that the marina’s funds are separate. He noted the budget issue is in the general fund and that is where changes should be made.

Linscott said he saw nothing in the material about the furlough about how costs can be cut and how morale of the staff can be retained and improved.

Keep Woodmont safe
Erica Schindler said she is a resident of the Woodmont area, a parent and a medical professional, told of her father seeing two homeless men talking about going to the nearby library.

“How are we going to make sure this is a safe place to live and grow as a community ¬– I’m concerned about that.”

The proposed scaled-down community would have food service and some medical supplied and “will draw the homeless to our community.”

She asked the Council for “what our next step should be, we’re kind of stuck right now.”


10 Responses to “Furloughs delayed by Des Moines City Council, but chickens are promoted”
  1. Robert says:

    While I can understand someone’s desire to raise chickens and have their own source of farm fresh eggs, the last thing I want is a neighbor to have smelly, noisy chickens. I hope that the city council keeps any law on the books preventing Chickens from being raised in yards.

    There is a reason why it’s called “Farm Fresh”, and not “Suburban back yard fresh”.

    • Tom says:

      A small flock of chickens as proposed is less noisy, and less smelly than a medium sized dog. Chickens won’t leave a steaming pile of crap on your lawn, or bark and howl all night. Most people are good dog owners so therefore you can justify the majority rather than ban them all because one a-hole doesn’t care about his neighbors. Why the double standard? This measure does not allow roosters I might add. So, you get 3-5 chickens which are only awake in daylight hours, that only chatter at volume when laying one egg 3-5 days per week. The max volume of which is 70db. A Labrador bark is 90db and not restricted to daylight hours. 4 chickens provide a similar quantity of poop. Poop that has less odor and can actually be made into excellent compost (composting correctly doesn’t smell either). The odor of factory farms and areas with 100s of chickens can’t be used as a sniff test for chicken odor any more than a dog kennel can for the pups. Oh yeah, and eggs. They make lots of those too.

      • Charles Wilkes says:

        Typical straw mans argument…………Just go buy your eggs like everyone else…..

      • Robert says:

        Tom, I am not comparing the smell to factory farms, I am comparing it to the smelly chickens a friends next door neighbor had once. Their coop was right up next to my friends fence. The smell was worse than a dog, and carried further.

        Your dog argument is invalid too, I find loud dogs obnoxious as well. If I wanted loud, stinky animals for neighbors, I would have bought a house in Enumclaw.

        • Tom says:

          Robert, I can understand that point of view based on that experience. Unfortunately, there are some really bad examples out there. The dog argument was used only because it’s something that people can easily relate to. But both come down to the type of owner each has. I don’t expect you to change your opinion on the matter. You have a reasoned opinion based on experience. I realize that many people have valid concerns about the idea of chickens next door. When drafting the proposal, I did my best to keep that in mind and find a middle ground somewhere. Most of it is adopted from Kent and Federal Way and has been working well in those cities. All coops must be built a minimum of 10′ from any property line. Minimum lot size is 5000 sq ft. Max 3 hens (no roosters) with an additional hen for every 1000 sq ft, max 6 hens until reaching 22,000 sq ft where original code allows 10, and roosters. 3-6 hens are manageable and can, if properly cared for be a great pet that neighbors actually enjoy. I think that represents a fair compromise. I do understand where you are coming from, and do respect your opinion. I hope however you can understand where I’m coming from even while disagreeing with what we’re asking for. And this is just my personal take. I have 4 hens. I assumed everything was legal and fine since every adjoining city (most of King County including Seattle), it would be. I spoke to my neighbors and keep an open dialogue. If there were a problem, I would address it right away. I give them eggs once in a while as well. I do my very best to ensure that my coop, and yard are clean. I clean the coop twice a week. Three times in summer. Not just for odor but to keep my hens healthy and happy. So for me, I know that guy with his coop built up to the fence exists. But, I’m not him. And I don’t feel that I should be restricted because of that one guy. I know that more people like me exist than him. His example just stinks enough to be noticed. I’ve seen a lot of really good examples so, the difficulty for me is why should HIS example prevent me from doing what I do responsibly in the home I purchased, and pay property taxes on?

          • Robert says:

            Tom- While I can appreciate your argument, and your work to ensure that chickens are as unobtrusive as possible to neighbors, how will offenders be policed?

            Currently the city is in dire straits financially, and providing enforcement on people who run a-fowl (see what I did there 😉 )of the chicken code would just take more resources. What recourse would anti chicken folks like myself have should we have a neighbor with funky chickens?

            I do have a great buffalo wing sauce recipe though if you need it 😉

    • Tirina Deignan says:

      But “farm fresh” eggs are not fresh by the time we get them. Also, the eggs you get at he store do not have nearly as much nutritional value because most “farm fresh” chickens never see the light of day. That decreases the B12 nutrient value greatly. That is why people want their own chickens. I have my own vegetable and herb garden because the nutrient value of fruits and vegetables in stores are not good due the the poor soil conditions at farms and they are full of pesticides if they are not organic. Also, they pick the fruits/vegi’s before fully ripened so they can transport them to the stores…losing nutrient value and they don’t taste nearly as good as if they were vine ripened. I also avoid all GMO’s. Some of us are waking up to the fact that what we get at the store is sub-par nutrient and taste wise and and sometimes it is better to grow and produce your own food…eggs included.

      • BirchCreek says:

        Trina, I agree with your points except GMOs. My son (a progressive politically), a Botanist, says that GMOs will save the world from starving to death.

        • Tirina says:

          Birchcreek, GMO food will not save the world from starving to death. Personally, I do not want to eat corn that has the ability to destroy a bugs stomach through gene mutation. I was a biology/chemistry major who got an award for outstanding scholasticism in college for botany, zoology and genetics. I then switched to Exercise Physiology because it was the human body that interested me most. I understand chemistry very well. I do not agree. I march against Monsanto.

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