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Hunting crops up again

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A hot-button issue involving city-owned land recently opened to the public for hunting was once again broached during the Tuesday evening meeting of the Fort Scott City Commission.

Local resident Ken Gau, who lives on the south side of Lake Fort Scott, appeared before the commission during the public comments portion of the gathering and encouraged them to reconsider their decision two weeks ago to approve by a 3-2 vote an amended accord between the city and the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism allowing shotgun and bow hunting on noncontiguous land.

Gau said he is concerned about safety and believes the areas that have been opened up near Fort Scott Lake are too close to private residences. He also said he believes "a number of incorrect statements" were made during the discussion at the commission meeting two weeks ago and commissioners should review several new developments since that meeting -- including residents who have recently begun appearing before the Bourbon County Commission requesting the city be responsible for building fences to keep hunters off their privately-owned land -- and reconsider the contract.

"At the very minimum, I think it's hard to say a vote was cast with all the correct facts and I ask you to reconsider," Gau said.

At the meeting two weeks ago, Gau was one of several residents who voiced concerns to the commission about such matters as noise, safety, liability, monitoring the areas and enforcing rules and regulations, poaching, deer carcasses in people's yards, narrow roads and revenue from the state for the program.

Gau also urged commissioners at that meeting to table the matter to allow time to think of alternative revenue sources, as "the dollar amounts are pretty small" compared to the risks involved.

Gau said Tuesday he believes that the possible cost for the city to help pay for fences that would separate properties will be greater than the revenue generated through the KDWP contract.

Tracts of land in the agreement include the area of Rock Creek Lake, the very south part of Lake Fort Scott, Condensary Road by the wastewater treatment plant and the west side of Fort Scott Municipal Airport, among other locales.

Gau also said Tuesday he discovered that the four main areas of land in the agreement "did not have to be treated as a package" and could have been voted on separately. He urged commissioners to remove the Lake Fort Scott area from the properties in the contract.

Gau also mentioned other potential uses for the property and sources of revenue other than hunting. He said the land could possibly be used as a wildlife sanctuary -- rather than for hunting -- to bring in revenue. He added another option is that there are more than 3,000 acres of land within 10 miles of Fort Scott that could be opened for hunting instead.

Some of the hunting land is also near 190th Street, which Gau said is used by school buses and will become more congested with hunters in the area.

At the Sept. 18 meeting, other residents spoke in support of the hunting agreement. District Wildlife Biologist Justin Harbit was present and went over maps of the areas with the audience. He said the state approached the city with the land-lease program in 1994. As of 2004, the state had more than one million acres leased and this is the most successful program for the state.

Hunting will be open to walk-in traffic only and no rifles will be allowed -- only bows and shotguns using pellets, no slugs, will be allowed. All rules and regulations will be clearly posted and patrolled by KDWP and sheriff personnel, he said.

Since the hunting issue was not an agenda item Tuesday, the commission did not address it. However, commissioner Jeanie Parker said she "appreciates everyone voicing their opinions and giving us information. We're here to listen to all points."

The commission did approve amending the city's ordinance concerning hunting or discharging firearms on city property. With the amendment, archery hunting and hunting with shotgun pellets will be allowed only on leased land and no other city property. The law states that anyone who violates the law will face a misdemeanor charge and fine not to exceed $500.

In other business Tuesday, the commission:

* Heard a proclamation declaring the week of Oct. 8 as Fred Campbell and Don Miller Week in Fort Scott. The two local historians will be honored for their service to the community through teaching youth, preserving history in Bourbon County and communicating that history to others.

* Approved the consent agenda, which included appropriation ordinances totaling $585,234, August financials, and approval of a street closing for the annual Trunk or Treat event Oct. 31 at Community Christian Church.

* Approved a bid of $16,018 from Twin Traffic in Kansas City to pay for pavement markings on various streets due to wear, or because they have not been marked. Money to pay for the project will come from the Special Streets Fund for signs/paint/markings. Streets included are Margrave from East National to Sixth Street, 18th Street from Horton to the west city limits, 23rd Street from Horton to U.S. Highway 69 and from U.S. 69 to Jayhawk Road, and Horton from Golf Course Drive to the Bourbon County Fairgrounds.

* Took no action following an executive session to consult with the city attorney, which is deemed to fall within attorney-client privilege.

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